Editorial: Telling the truth about sources of campaign cash

Ventura County Star, January 25th, 2012

Political campaigns deliberately leave voters in the dark when ads list sponsors with mysterious names like "Voters for a More Prosperous California" or "Citizens for a Strong and Sensible State."

Californians have come to expect such uninformative names on ads and mass mailers for or against ballot initiatives and candidates.

It is, of course, a deliberate scheme to hide the identity of individuals and organizations financing the campaigns. News reporters and other watchdogs eventually find out the real source of the money, but after a delay that deprives voters of timely information.

Tuesday, the California Assembly is scheduled to vote on a proposal to toughen the state's political reporting requirements so California voters won't suffer as much of this abuse in the future.

Assembly Bill 1148, called the California Disclose Act, would force campaign strategists to skip the made-up names. Instead, their ads on TV, radio and in print, their mass mailers and websites would have to report the actual names of the top three contributors giving $10,000 or more, whether they're individuals, businesses or other types of organizations.

If the business or organization has a logo, it too would have to appear as part of the disclosure. A website address also would have to be provided where the public could find additional information about the top handful of financial contributors.

A two-thirds vote will be required for the Assembly to pass AB 1148 and send it to the Senate for consideration. The two-thirds requirement is a high hurdle, and it's unclear whether the bill will pass that test.

In the opinion of The Star, AB 1148 merits approval. We think the Assembly would be well advised to OK it without hesitation.

The legislation is a well-thought-out attempt to give voters more information so they can make good decisions on Election Day. It is a reasonable step aimed at uncovering the influence of special-interest money in politics.

The author of AB 1148 is Assemblymember Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, whose 41st District includes parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties. Her bill has been endorsed by many elected officials and groups in this region and across the state, including the League of Women Voters of California and California Common Cause.

Voters should know who's funding political campaign activities. AB 1148 can help accomplish that by providing more transparency and accountability so the public can make more informed decisions.

See the article on Ventura County Star website

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