Californians Lose As State Republican Senators Unite To Kill Landmark Political Reform

* AB 700 (Gomez-Levine) would have curbed “Dark Money” and provided greater disclosure and transparency of who funds political ads

By Press Release
California Clean Money Campaign, September 1st, 2016

Sacramento, CA -- Despite overwhelming support from the public, including petition signatures from more than 106,000 Californians, the California State Senate today failed for the final time to muster the two-thirds vote required to pass Assembly Bill 700 (Gomez-Levine), a landmark bill that would have shone a light on Dark Money and required the true funders of political ads to be disclosed on the ads themselves.

As with the first vote Tuesday, the final vote on reconsideration today split along party lines. All 26 Democrats voted Yes for the measure, but all 14 Republicans either voted No or abstained, which has the same effect as a no vote.

In contrast to Senate Republicans, nine Assembly Republicans have stood for transparency and disclosure by joining every single Assembly Democrat in voting Yes: Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), Ling-Ling Chang (R-Chino Hills), David Hadley (R-Torrance), Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), Eric Linder (R-Corona), Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto), Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga), and Scott Wilk (R-Valencia).

"It's very disappointing that not a single Republican Senator would vote Yes for this crucial transparency and disclosure bill to curb Dark Money on political ads," said Trent Lange, President, California Clean Money Campaign. "But you'll never find better fighters for reform than AB 700 authors Assemblymembers Jimmy Gomez and Marc Levine, along with AB 700 Senate floor manager Senator Ben Allen."

The need for serious reform of disclosure on political ads is skyrocketing. For example, over $640 million was spent on ballot measures alone in the last two election cycles in California according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Most of it was spent by committees hiding their true funders by using misleading names like "Stop Special Interest Money Now" or "Californians Against Higher Health Care Costs". Hundreds of millions dollars more of Dark Money are expected to be spent in the 2016 elections, almost all hidden from voters on political ads.

Under AB 700, all ballot measure committees and PACs supporting or opposing candidates would have been required to clearly display the names of their top 3 true funders no matter how many layers of front groups they try to hide behind.

There were only two organizations opposing AB 700, with the lead opposition by the Fair Political Practices Commission (the FPPC). Its opposition to AB 700 continues the agency's recent aggressive efforts to defeat or diminish flagship reform legislation supported by good government groups, including the FPPC's recent opposition to AB 2002 (Stone) (ex parte disclosure for Coastal Commission), AB 1200 (Gordon) (lobbyist registration for those who lobby for government contracts), and AB 2523 (Mullin) until the author agreed to the FPPC's amendment demands.

In contrast, more than 300 organizations and leaders supported AB 700, including Bob Stern, principal co-author of the Political Reform Act that created the FPPC, along with leading good government reform organizations like California Clean Money Campaign, California Common Cause, CalPIRG, California Forward Action Fund, Maplight, and Public Citizen, as well as newspapers like the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times.

"Tonight's loss of AB 700 by one vote just before the midnight hour on the final day of the legislative session at the hands of Senate Republicans was very disappointing," said Lange. "But it's a sign of the growing strength of the movement that more than 300 organizations and leaders endorsed the California DISCLOSE Act, more than 106,000 people signed petitions for it, and that every single Democrat in the legislature and a record nine Assembly Republicans responded by voting Yes this time."

With 84 percent of likely California voters* favoring legislation to increase public disclosure of funding sources in ads and with AB 700 enjoying a sweeping bi-partisan vote in the Assembly, Lange and the authors of the bill, Assemblymembers Gomez and Levine, vowed to be back next year.

"It shouldn't be legal to mislead California voters -- period," said Assemblymember Gomez (D-Los Angeles). "And I won't rest until it is stopped. The California DISCLOSE Act will be back." Added Assemblymember Levine, "My constituents deserve to be told the truth about who is asking for their vote. This isn't over."

About California Clean Money Campaign The California Clean Money Campaign's vision is achieving an open and accountable government that is responsive to the needs of all Californians. We are a non-profit, non-partisan organization whose mission is to pursue that vision by building statewide support for public funding of election campaigns.

For more information, visit California Clean Money Campaign website at www.CAclean.org

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*A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California in October 2013

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

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