Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
March 14, 2016 – 3:27 PM

  • California expanding information about political finances
  • Legislature, FPPC move on several fronts
  • Now an upgrade of clunky Cal-Access system proposed

Slowly – perhaps too slowly – but surely, California is shining some much-needed light into the darker corners of its political system.

The Fair Political Practices Commission, implementing legislation enacted two years ago, is closing loopholes that allowed huge sums of “dark money” to flow into political campaigns without its origins being disclosed.

The legislation and the regulations were inspired, if that’s the correct word, by a big blowup during the 2012 election cycle over $15 million in mystery money that flowed into California to influence voters on two ballot measures, including Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase.

Under the new FPPC regulations, supposed nonprofit groups that are spending on California campaigns would have to disclose their original donors, even if the money floats through other groups.

“There should be no dark money in California,” Common Cause representative Gavin Baker told the commission before it acted.

During the current legislative session, two bills are moving to require more disclosure in political advertisements about their sponsors and to require those seeking government contracts to register as lobbyists.

Assembly Bills 700 and 1200 are similar to provisions of a proposed measure for the November ballot, backed by Silicon Valley software entrepreneur Jim Heerwagen and political reform groups, for which signatures were being gathered.

However, Heerwagen’s group stopped its signature-gathering campaign on Monday when he, Sen. Robert Hertzberg and Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced that Hertzberg would carry legislation mirroring a third major provision of the ballot measure – a much-needed modernization of Cal-Access, California’s campaign finance reporting system.

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