Gov. Newsom signs landmark disclosure bills: Petition DISCLOSE Act and Text Message DISCLOSE Act

* SB 47 requires initiative circulators and AB 201 requires political text messages to show their top funders.

By Press Release
California Clean Money Campaign, October 9th, 2019

SACRAMENTO, CA -- Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 201, the Text Message DISCLOSE Act (Cervantes-Mullin) and SB 47, the Petition DISCLOSE Act (Allen), two landmark bills that close major loopholes for secret money in politics, adding to California's national leadership in disclosure. Both expand on the California DISCLOSE Act, the nation's most comprehensive campaign disclosure law, passed in 2017, that requires political ads to clearly show their top funders.

SB 47 addresses the problem of wealthy interests qualifying initiatives for the ballot while hiding who's behind them. Initiatives that qualified for the ballot in 2016 and 2018 got there after spending $1 million to $8 million on signature gathering but few signers knew who was paying to put them on the ballot.

"Every election season, voters are bombarded with requests to sign initiative petitions by paid signature gatherers who aren't required to disclose or even know who's paying for the initiatives they've been hired to qualify," said Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), author of SB 47. "Now that the Petition DISCLOSE Act has been signed by Governor Newsom to build on the California DISCLOSE Act, voters will know who's behind the initiatives they're being asked to help put on the ballot."

AB 201 addresses the lack of disclosure on the new peer-to-peer text messaging platforms that exploded on the scene with hundreds of millions of political texts in the 2018 election alone.

"AB 201, the Text Message DISCLOSE Act, represents a balanced approach to getting dark money out of our politics. It provides California voters with information about who is paying for campaign text messages without burdening the ability to communicate a political message," said Assemblymember Cervantes, author of AB 201. "Voters deserve to know which entities are paying for the campaign media that is being sent to them, and the reforms provided by AB 201 accomplish that goal. I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing the bill into law, and Clean Money Campaign for advocating so strongly on behalf of AB 201. This new law ensures that California continues to lead the way on requiring transparency in political campaigns."

SB 47, authored by Senator Ben Allen and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, requires initiative signature gatherers to list the top 3 big funders of the effort on either the petition itself or on an "Official Top Funders" sheet shown to voters before they sign. SB 47 also makes printing of initiative petitions less expensive by allowing the text of initiatives to be stapled to the signature page rather than professionally bound which allows initiative petitions to be printed at home.

AB 201, authored by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, jointly authored by Assembly Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin, and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, requires text messages from candidates to "stand by their ad" by listing their name and the office they??â"¢re running for. Texts from other committees must include the committee name or a URL to a disclosure website. Most important, texts sent by paid texters must list their top funder like TV, radio, print, and social media ads.

"I am very pleased that Governor Newsom signed AB 201, a bill I joint authored with Assemblymember Cervantes," said Assembly Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin.  "Given our current political climate, it is critical that voters are presented with honest information. AB 201 takes a large step toward transparency in our political discourse."

Both bills passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan votes and were supported by broad coalitions of good government and activist groups. 56,687 signatures were submitted to Governor Newsom in support of SB 47 and 41,284 signatures were submitted in support of AB 201. Thousands of Californians called, commented, emailed, or used social media to ask for his signature.

SB 47 passed the Senate on a vote of 32-8 and passed the Assembly on a vote of 64-11. Supporters include CA Clean Money Campaign, CA League of Conservation Voters, CA Common Cause, CA League of Conservation Voters, CA Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), Climate Hawks Vote, Consumer Federation of CA, Consumer Watchdog, Courage Campaign, Demand Progress, Democracy for America, End Citizens United Action Fund, Endangered Habitats League, Franciscan Action Network, Free Speech for People, GMO Free CA, Greenpeace USA, Indivisible CA: StateStrong, League of Women Voters of CA, LegitAction, Maplight, Money Out Voters In (MOVI), New Progressive Alliance, People Demanding Action, People for the American Way, Progressive Democrats for America-CA, Public Citizen, RootsAction.org, Voices for Progress, and Voters Right to Know.

AB 201 passed the Assembly on a vote of 72-1 and passed the Senate on a vote of 34-1. Supporters include CA Clean Money Campaign, CA Broadcasters Association, CA Common Cause, Climate Hawks Vote, Consumer Federation of CA, Courage Campaign, Demand Progress, Democracy for America, Endangered Habitats League, End Citizens United Action Fund, Free Speech For People, Franciscan Action Network, GetThru GMO Free CA, Indivisible CA: StateStrong, LegitAction, Maplight, Money Out Voters In (MOVI), New Progressive Alliance, People Demanding Action, People for the American Way, Progressive Democrats for America-CA, Public Citizen, RootsAction.org, Voices for Progress, Voters Right to Know, and Wolf-PAC.

"Governor Newsom has started his term with the bold statement that California will continue leading the nation in political transparency by signing the Petition DISCLOSE Act and Text Message DISCLOSE Act to close loopholes for secret money in politics," said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign, sponsor of both AB 201 and SB 47. "Every American who cares about democracy owes an enduring debt of gratitude to Governor Gavin Newsom, Senator Ben Allen, Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, Assembly Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin, and all the other bold leaders in the California Legislature of both parties who helped SB 47 and AB 201 pass."

"DISCLOSE" is an acronym for Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.

The California Clean Money Campaign is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that has been dedicated to educating the public about the need to lessen the unfair influence of Big Money on election campaigns since 2001. For further information, visit www.CAclean.org.

(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.)