Voters in California have a right to know the major funding
sources for and against ballot measures.
That's key information, but efforts are routinely made to
disguise the identity of some donors.
In 2012, for example, $66 million was spent on ads against
a cigarette tax, with big contributions from Philip Morris
and RJ Reynolds Tobacco. Yet, the public was told that the
ads were "paid for by Californians Against Out of Control
Taxes and Spending."
To prevent such secrecy - "political deception" might be
more accurate - and support an informed electorate through
greater transparency, The Star urges the state Assembly to
pass the California Disclose Act, officially known as
Senate Bill 52.
SB 52 was passed by the Senate last year, and the Assembly
is expected to vote on it soon. We call on lawmakers to
give it their strong backing and send it to Gov. Jerry
Brown, who should sign it into law.
California will benefit from SB 52. It requires the three
largest funders of ballot measure ads on TV and in
newspapers, mass mailers and other print media to be
clearly and prominently identified in the ads. On radio ads
and robocalls, the two largest funders would have to be
The rule applies to the original source of the funds,
regardless of whether the money is transferred through one
or more nonprofit groups or campaign committees. The
central objective is to block the common use of vague,
deceptive names of committees, which is an insult to
Backers of SB 52 cite the 2012 tobacco tax as one of many
examples. In 2006, an oil severance tax was defeated after
tens of millions of dollars were spent against it. Major
funding came from Chevron, Aera Energy and Occidental Oil
and Gas, but voters were told the ads came from
"Californians Against Higher Taxes."
Voters are entitled to know the actual identity of major
donors. The California Disclose Act does that through
constitutional and reasonable rules that apply to
corporations, unions, other groups and individuals in state
and local ballot measure elections.
We have long supported reasonable steps to uncover the
influence of special-interest money in politics. The
Disclose Act does that, and it deserves the Assembly's full