About AB 700, California DISCLOSE Act
Stop ballot measure ads from deceiving voters about who paid for them
AB 700, the California DISCLOSE Act, would let voters know who REALLY is paying for ballot measure ads — on the ads themselves. Authored by Assemblymembers Jimmy Gomez (D-Northeast Los Angeles) and Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, AB 700 would amend the Political Reform Act of 1974 and therefore require a two-thirds vote of the legislature to pass. It follows up on SB 52 (Leno-Hill), which made it further than any such powerful bill has ever made it before, but was withdrawn from its final Assembly vote to have more time to address concerns of labor leaders.
AB 700 is currently a spot bill that says:
"It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation that would implement a California Disclose Act to ensure that advertisements that seek to persuade voters to cast a vote in favor or against ballot measures do not mislead voters as to who is funding the campaign that paid for the advertisement."
We have proposed new language for AB 700 to address the concerns of labor leaders and others that SB 52 left too much unknown by specifying simple "follow-the-money" language to ensure that the funders that are shown on ads are the original sources of funds to the committees that paid for them, rather than misleading committee names.
Proposed California DISCLOSE Act Provisions
- Requires the three largest funders of ballot measure ads to be clearly identified (two largest for radio ads and robocalls), so voters know who is actually paying for them.
- Applies to all television ads, radio ads, print ads, mass mailers, online ads, and billboards for or against state and local ballot measures. It applies whether ads are paid for by corporations, unions, or millionaires.
- Tells voters where to find the details for the largest committees — Requires ads paid for by committees that spend $1 million or more to link to the FPPC page listing their top ten funders.
- Follow-the-Money Disclosure will ensure that the names shown on ads are original sources of the funds received by the committee that paid for the ad, even if the funds were transferred through multiple layers. In other words, they most show the actual original corporate, union, or individual contributors — not misleading committee and non-profit names.
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Disclosure of Big Spenders Works
Unfortunately, the largest funders aren't usually as clear as in Props 16, 17, and 23. AB 700 would make sure they're clear all the time.
- 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.
AB 700 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 AB 700 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
"The overwhelming power of money to mislead voters is a profound moral issue."
- 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.
— 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!
Before and After Examples
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