California Campaign Finance Reform Redux: How to make it happen. Consider a move?

By Carolyn Lee, Advocacy Committee Co Chair

Bay Area residents are fortunate that virtually all of our federal and state representatives support campaign finance reform, including efforts to disclose who actually pays for the candidates running for office, and who provides the money behind the support or opposition of ballot initiatives. By “who” Disclose means specifying the individual or corporation or union or non-profit. Today, “who” means Americans for Safe Neighborhoods, or Citizens United to Save the Single Use Plastic Bag (seriously). Disclose legislation also would bring transparency to the amount of money the actual funders provided.

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Knowing who is trying to buy an election may make a difference to voters. Certainly those big spenders behind the airbreathers’ entities believe it will, if their relentless opposition to Disclose legislation is any indication. California’s Disclose Act has been before the legislature in various iterations for more than ten years. Through it all, the California League of Women Voters is an enduring advocate of Disclose initiatives. Many LWVSF members are clean campaign money activists.


If only we lived in a legislative district where the representative needs persuading. It’s true that legislators listen to the individuals and entities who bought them; fortunately, it still is true that they listen to their constituents. Living in the Bay Area, our representatives favor Disclose. Our representatives aren’t enough to make Disclose happen, despite their determined efforts to do so. What to do? Consider a move? (Or, join various groups with calling programs into other legislative districts, to educate the local voters, and activate their support for Disclose.)


So what’s the latest on Disclose legislation? Why are we still talking about this? Surveys show the vast majority of all voters, Republican and Democrat, support more transparent campaign finance disclosure requirements. What happened to all those petitions of support we signed, year after year, during Sunday Streets around town, the Green Festival, SF Mime Troupe performances and the like.


Disclose, yet again, is moving through the State Legislature. The 2015 iteration, AB 700, is authored by Assemblymember Jimmy Gomez (Northeast Los Angeles) and Assemblymember Marc Levine (San Rafael). AB 700 builds on the progress achieved by the 2014 version of the California DISCLOSE Act, SB 52 (Sponsors Mark Leno (San Francisco) and Jerry Hill (San Mateo)), which passed the Senate on an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 28-11, and then passed all its Assembly committees. The SB 52 authors and sponsor agreed not to call for a final Assembly vote in order to have more time to address stakeholders’ concerns.


Here is an easy advocacy action plan in support of Disclose: Read more about AB 700, and monitor its progress here. Talk to your friends who live in other California legislative districts about campaign finance transparency. When they agree Disclose makes sense, help them make a call to their State Assemblymember, with a simple request that they support AB 700. Or thank them for supporting AB 700.


It is a meaningful opportunity to BE BOLD!  EDUCATE, ADVOCATE AND THEN ACT!

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