About SB 52, California DISCLOSE Act

Change the Big Money Game with True Transparency

SB 52, the California DISCLOSE Act, would end big secret spending on campaigns by letting voters know who REALLY is paying for political ads — on the ads themselves.  Authored by Senators Mark Leno and Jerry Hill and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, SB 52 would amend the Political Reform Act of 1974 and therefore requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature to pass.

SB 52 passed the Senate on an overwhelming vote of 28-11 last year, and will be coming up for its votes in the Assembly this year.  It follow-ups to AB 1648, which made history by passing the Assembly in August 2012 before running out of time to pass the Senate.

California DISCLOSE Act Provisions

  • Requires the three largest funders of political ads to be clearly identified for five seconds at the beginning of the ads, so voters know who is actually paying for them.
  • Applies to all television ads, radio ads, print ads, mass mailers, online ads, billboards, and websites for or against state and local ballot measures, to third party ads for and against state and local candidates, and to issue advocacy advertisements. It applies whether ads are paid for by corporations, unions, or millionaires.
  • Tells voters where to find the details — Requires ads to list a website that prominently lists the ten largest funders and a link to all funders of $10,000 or more (for state races).
  • Proposed Follow-the-Money Disclosure will require organizations that spend or transfer politically-available funds to report the actual original corporate, union, or individual contributors — not misleading committee and non-profit names.

Print Provisions Overview or Official SB 52 Language

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Disclosure of Big Spenders Works

  • The attempt by Texas oil interests to overturn California's landmark climate change law with Prop 23 in 2010 failed because opponents had enough funds to disclose to voters that it was funded by Texas oil companies.
  • Despite tens of millions spent in 2010 on Props 16 and 17 by PG&E and Mercury Insurance, both lost because enough people knew they were the largest spenders and took that into account when viewing their ads.
Unfortunately, the largest funders aren't usually as clear as in Props 16, 17, and 23.  SB 52 would make sure they're clear all the time.

SB 52 is Constitutional and Reasonable

  • 8 out of 9 justices in the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision noted the problems when groups run ads "while hiding behind dubious and misleading names" and said we need transparent disclosure for voters "to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages."
  • Required TV ad disclosures are the same time and space as current law — just much more effective.
  • Required radio ad disclosures are shorter than those in current law in most cases — but more effective.
  • "The California DISCLOSE Act, SB 52, stands on a firm constitutional bedrock and is worthy of support."
    Brennan Center for Justice, 4/24/2013
See our full comparison to current disclosure law to see how SB 52 is both reasonable and effective.

"Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed."
— Justice Antonin Scalia, writing in Doe v. Reed, 2010

Californians are Ready for the California DISCLOSE Act

  • 84% of California voters said they favored legislation to "increase the public disclosure requirements of initiative sponsors to more clearly identify who are its major funders" in the October 13, 2011 Field Poll, including 86% of Democrats, 88% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans.
  • Over 100,000 Californians have signed petitions urging the legislature to pass the California DISCLOSE Act.
"The overwhelming power of money to mislead voters is a profound moral issue."
— Reverend Dr. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director of California Church IMPACT, representing 1.5 million people of faith in California.

Tell voters who is really funding propositions and attack ads when it counts!

Print Before and After Examples
California Disclose Act

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League of Women Voters of California

Brennan Center for Justice

California Clean Money Campaign

California Alliance of Retired Americans

California Church IMPACT

California Common Cause

California League of Conservation Voters

California National Organization of Women


Consumer Federation of California

Green Chamber of Commerce

Greenlining Institute

Lutheran Office of Public Policy - CA


Public Citizen

Redwood Empire Business Association

Sierra Club California

Southwest Voter Registration Education Project

U.S. Green Building Council of California

And Other Leading Groups and Individuals See all...