Voters deserve to know who's behind TV ads

Bakersfield Californian, November 7th, 2011

Californians who were inspired in a negative way by last year's Citizens United decision will be inspired in a positive way by efforts to require the straightforward disclosure of the funding behind political ads in state campaigns.

The California Clean Money Campaign, an organization that has been active in Los Angeles and the Bay Area, is beginning to stake out territory in the San Joaquin Valley, starting in Stockton and Fresno. Organizers will also find fertile soil in Kern County, where anonymous and semi-anonymous benefactors have long been a feature of the political landscape.

Inspired by Citizens United, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that permits corporations to influence campaigns by spending unlimited amounts of money -- as long as that money is channeled through independent expenditure committees -- the California Clean Money Campaign, and independent grassroots allies, are circulating petitions urging the Legislature to adopt Assembly Bill 1148. The bill would require the primary funders of each political advertisement -- television, video or radio -- to "stand by their ad" by appearing on screen and saying that they "helped pay for this message and approve it." The so-called California Disclose Act would apply to ballot-measure ads and independent expenditure ads for or against a candidate.

California voters enthusiastically endorse the idea of accountability in political advertising. A Field Poll conducted last October found that 84 percent of Californians favor requiring that the funding sources of ballot initiatives be clearly identified. AB 1148's supporters include the League of Women Voters of California and California Common Cause. Add The Californian's name to that list.

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