SB 52 Strengthens Campaign Contribution And Advertising Transparency (2-year bill)

Update 8/31/2014: SB 52 languished in the Assembly’s Inactive File until the two-year session ended. The legislation is dead.

Update 4/29/2013: Senate Bill 52 (Leno) has become a 2-year bill.  It will be brought back up in January of 2014.

AUGUST 5, 2013 – The Consumer Federation of California – along with numerous leading civil rights, labor, environmental, senior, faith, and other organizations* – strongly supports SB 52 (Leno & Hill). This bill, sponsored by California Clean Money Campaign, would strengthen transparency provisions relating to campaign disclosure requirements for contributions and advertisements.

Over $475 million was spent on California ballot measures in 2012, much of it by veiled actors hiding behind innocuous-sounding names such as ‘Stop Special Interest Money Now’ or the ‘2012 Auto Insurance Discounts Act.’

The bill, also called the California DISCLOSE Act, applies to all television ads, radio ads, print ads, mass mailers, online ads, billboards, and websites for or against state and local ballot measures; to third party ads for and against state and local candidates; and to issue advocacy advertisements.

Specifically, with SB 52:

  • The three largest funders of political ads will be required to be clearly identified for six seconds at the beginning of the ads so voters will know who paid for them.
  • A disclosure statement will be required from any person making a payment in excess of $10,000 for a communication, and circulated within 120 days before a state primary or a state election.
  • For each of its campaigns, a committee will be required to establish a campaign disclosure website.
  • Organizations that spend or transfer politically available funds will be required to report the original corporate, union, or individual contributors, without using misleading committee and non-profit names.
  • Candidates will be required to appear and say they ‘approve this message,’ as is done with federal candidates.

Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, elections across the nation have become more and more dominated by money that cannot be traced. The provisions in SB 52 will help ensure that the public is more aware of what and who is influencing California’s elections.

* See full list of supporters here.