By David Siders
Published: Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A
Ann Ravel recalled recently what many people thought of her last year, when Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her chairwoman of the commission overseeing campaign finance and ethics rules in California.
The Fair Political Practices Commission had become increasingly aggressive under Ravel’s predecessor, Dan Schnur, and Ravel, who worked for decades in local government, suggested it was unfairly harsh in its oversight of many local officials.
“They all thought I was a wimp,” Ravel said, “that I wasn’t going to do anything.”
Last month, Ravel made herself a central figure in California’s initiative campaigns, waging a legal battle to identify the source of an $11 million donation from a secretive Arizona group to a committee opposing Brown’s measure to raise taxes and supporting a controversial campaign finance measure.
Buoyed by publicity around that effort, Ravel plans to push for major changes to the nearly 40-year-old Political Reform Act next year.
She said she wants legislation to expand disclosure requirements and her agency’s power to enforce them, including language clarifying what constitutes coordination between campaign committees that are prohibited by law from interacting.
“If one thing has been clear about this whole Arizona incident,” the 63-year-old Democrat told a crowd at the University of California Center Sacramento after the election, it’s that “suddenly the FPPC is popular with the Legislature.”
Ravel’s battle with the Arizona group Americans for Responsible Leadership involved what is believed to be the largest anonymous donation ever in a California statewide election. It culminated one day before Election Day, when the nonprofit, facing a California Supreme Court order, disclosed as the source of its contributions two other out-of-state nonprofit groups whose backers remain unknown.
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