Historic Victory over Dark Money as SB 27 Passes Senate and Goes to Governor's Desk

* Bill requiring non-profits that spend $50,000 on California elections to reveal their secret donors passes Senate in overwhelming vote of 28-7

By Press Release
California Clean Money Campaign, May 7th, 2014

SACRAMENTO - SB 27, a bill that has national implications by requiring greater transparency from non-profit organizations that spend significant amounts on California campaigns, passed the full Senate today in an overwhelming and bipartisan 28-7 vote.

The fact that out-of-state non-profit organizations were able to funnel $11 million into California races in the final days of the 2012 election without revealing their donors highlighted the need to strengthen California's disclosure laws. Even though the Fair Political Practices Commission imposed a record $1 million fine, they couldn't require all original funders to be revealed. But, starting July 1st, SB 27 would reveal such secretive spending in future races beginning in this November's election.

"It should not require last-minute Supreme Court rulings or year-long FPPC investigations for voters to learn the names of major funders of California campaigns," said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign. "Voters deserve to know who's trying to influence their votes."

The use of secretive non-profits to hide political spending is a snowballing national problem. A study by the Wesleyan Media Project and the Center for Responsive Politics just found that over half of the group-sponsored ads aired nationally so far this midterm election are so-called "Dark Money" ads.

SB 27, authored by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) and sponsored by the Fair Political Practices Commission, addresses the problem by requiring any non-profit that spends $50,000 or more in California races to become a formal campaign committee, and report the contributors that fund their campaign expenditures. Those contributions then would be available for the public to see on the Secretary of State website.

Republican Senators blocked SB 27 in March, but it was amended to address their concerns by stipulating that people who donate before it goes into effect on July 1st won't be disclosed if they didn't earmark their funds for political purposes. It already had reasonable protections for real non-profits and donors whose money is not used for campaign purposes.

"If you're going to give money to a nonprofit and you know it's going to be used for campaign purposes, just disclose it," Correa said. "It's a very simple concept, which is that people need to know who is supporting what causes or which candidates."

More than 40,000 people signed petitions urging the legislature to pass SB 27, including ones hosted and shared on CREDO Mobilize, MoveOn.org Petitions, Causes.com, and the California Clean Money Campaign website. It has support from not only good government groups in California like the California Clean Money Campaign, California Common Cause, California Forward, California Voter Foundation, and the League of Women Voters of California, but also national organizations like Courage Campaign, CREDO, Maplight, the Money Out Voters In Coalition, Progressives United, Public Citizen, Represent.Us, and the Sunlight Foundation.

SB 27 achieved the required 2/3 vote with all 25 Democratic Senators voting "Yes", joined by Republican Senators Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), and Andy Vidak (R-Hanford). It now moves to the Governor's desk and will go into effect on July 1st if he signs it.

"SB 27 is crucial to closing the loopholes that let billionaires and other special interests hide behind secretive non-profits. We're grateful to Senator Correa for his leadership," said Lange. "After Governor Brown signs SB 27, the Assembly must take the next and equally important step of passing SB 52, the California DISCLOSE Act, so that political ads must use the information unveiled by SB 27 to show who really pays for them."

SB 52, the California DISCLOSE Act, authored by Senators Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, passed the Senate in 2013 and will have its votes in the Assembly later this year. Senator Correa is also a Principle Co-Author of SB 52, along with Senator Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) and Assembly Elections Committee Chair Paul Fong (D-Mountain View). Speaker John Perez (D-Los Angeles) has endorsed SB 52.


The California Clean Money Campaign is a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization that has been dedicated to educating the public about the need to lessen the unfair influence of Big Money on election campaigns since 2001. For further information, visit www.CAclean.org

You can sign the petition asking Governor Brown to sign SB 27 here.

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