The push for more campaign disclosure

* Effort draws partisan support, with Republicans complaining that it aims to drive corporate dollars out of campaigns.

By Martin Wisckol, Columnist
Orange County Register, December 14th, 2012

Craig Preston wants campaign advertisements to includes the names - and where applicable, company logos - of the three biggest donors.

If that law had been in effect in November, for example, Mercury Insurance's name and logo would have appeared on advertising for Proposition 33, which instead listed the 2012 Auto Insurance Discount Act as its first contributor. The name of Mercury, the primary sponsor, did not appear on the website, advertising or in the ballot argument.

News reports and campaign finance reports detailed Mercury's central role and the measure failed. But Preston said those reports are not enough - that many voters don't pay close enough attention.

"Without this disclosure act, the voters are easily fooled," Preston said at the Friday luncheon of the League of Women Voters Orange Coast, which convened at the Marie Calendars in Irvine. "Usually, the disclosure is just a committee's name. It doesn't say who the funds are coming from."

The issue also arose in November when the Arizona-based Americans for Responsible Leadership gave $11 million in opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 and in support of the union-weakening Proposition 32. The group lost both races - but largely won its effort to keep its donors secret. When finally ordered by the California Supreme Court to say where it got the money, Americans for Responsible Leadership announced the day before the election that it came from Americans for Job Security and the Center to Protect Patient Rights.

Not exactly the transparency Preston and his group, the California Clean Money Campaign, are looking for.

The group's proposal passed the Assembly this year on a party line vote, with support from Democrats and opposition from Republicans. The session ended before the bill reached the Senate, but Preston said it will be back in 2013

Preston said his group is non-partisan but acknowledges it has virtually no support from Republicans. Its effort is endorsed by nearly two dozen Democratic groups though, as well as a host of non-partisan groups including the League of Women Voters and the Sierra Club.

Corporations targeted?

Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, is among Republicans who voted against the disclosure bill in this year.

His primary objection was the requirement that company logos appear on the advertisements, citing company complaints that it would dilute their brand image.

"There was a feeling that it was an effort to drive corporate participation out of campaigns, while it wasn't likely to affect the unions and groups like the Sierra Club," Wagner said.

Wagner's said his personal preference would be complete online disclosure of names within 24 hours of contributions but with no contribution limits. He doesn't advocate for listing donors sans logos on advertisements but said, "I don't think I have a problem with having the biggest donors listed by name."

Because of the voter-approved Political Reform Act of 1974, Preston's proposal would need to be approved by voters - or by two-thirds of the Legislature. With last month's election, Democrats now control two-thirds of both chambers.

"There's a lot of shenanigans that's going to be played with the supermajority," Wagner said. "It's not just with taxes."

Contact the writer: 714-796-6753 or

See the article on Orange County Register website

(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.)