Senate Bill 52, which faces a do-or-die moment in the
California Assembly on Thursday, should not pose a tough
call for lawmakers. It simply would require advertisements
for ballot measures to be more forthright about their
sources of funding.
But nothing is simple or easy in Sacramento when the
comfort zone of special interests is involved.
SB52, authored by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is
wavering in limbo on the suspense file in the Assembly
Appropriations Committee. The Assembly leadership needs to
know that Californians are paying attention to the fate of
It has become almost standard procedure for various
interests - from right and left, business and labor - to
conceal their motivations and sources of funding by hiding
behind benign-sounding or even blatantly deceptive
One of the most absurd examples of duplicity came in the
2012 election, when a network of conservative nonprofit
groups went through an elaborate interstate scheme to
funnel $11 million into two California measures: against
Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increases and for a plan to curtail
the ability of unions to raise campaign cash through
Leno said SB52, which would require a two-thirds vote for
passage, has received a refreshing wave of citizen
"It's not just a bill, it's a movement," he said. "People
are concerned that their democracy - something so precious
to them - is being stolen and contorted."
It may take an additional surge of public pressure to get
SB52 to the governor's desk. Voters should speak up now or
brace themselves for many more volleys of confusing and
deceptive campaign advertising.
What SB52 does
-- TV ads: Requires bold, prominent disclosure of the top
three original funders.
-- Radio and robocalls: Replaces the common "speed reading"
disclosure at the end of the pitch with simple, clear
disclosure of top two original funders.
-- Print and mailers: Requires clear listing of three
original funders and the name of committee paying for
-- Online, billboards: Instructs Fair Political Practices
Commission to develop regulations.
Bill text and staff analysis: http://bit.ly/1AeJBsA