A report by Barry Hirsch:
Outside groups spent more than $640 million on ballot measures in our state in 2012 and 2014.
When you turn on the tube and stretch out to watch, you’ll find yourself presented with interesting lifestyle choices in those polished commercials spots that pay the freight for your favorite shows. Who wouldn’t want to be more like the world’s most interesting man? Well, just down a bottle of Tecate and you’ll be on your way. And who can say no to the family values portrayed in the lovefest of a McDonalds happy meal promo? These slick TV commercials, as well as those found in print and on the radio, send sophisticated messages in effort to get us to part with our dollars for an ever-widening array of consumer goods and services. Is this a form of Orwellian mind control? Maybe so, but at least we know who is paying for the ads and why.
That’s not the case with the equally polished ads that flood our media during election season. In 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, that the First Amendment prohibits restrictions on spending by corporations, labor unions and other associations including so-called political action committees. Since then the floodgates have been opened for spending on campaigns by donors, often acting with anonymity, hiding behind misleading organizational names, and not divulging the actual funders.
On June 25th, the Windsor Democratic Club heard from David Schmidt, Northern California Director of the California Clean Money Campaign, who is working to pass Assembly Bill 700, the California Disclose Act of 2015. This law would mandate a straightforward disclosure of the true sources of campaign advertising. The Disclose Act requires that the two or three largest funders (the number depends on the media) be prominently and clearly displayed in TV, radio, and print ads, as well as in mass mailers and robo calls, in support or against state and local ballot measures. The Disclose Act stipulates that the actual, true name of the sponsors be shown, rather than the name of some misleading committee or non-profit. Although the Act does not stop big money spending, it will help neutralize the power of money by allowing voters to see who is buying ads.
Thanks to the Citizens United decision, big money interests can spend unlimited amounts of money to affect the outcomes of our elections. The Disclose Act will stop the hiding of the identity of those who fund the messages that bombard people during election seasons. If you’re interested in helping to get this bill passed – it is now working its way through our legislature, visit the California Clean Money Campaign website at www.CAdisclose.org.