Fletcher touts stronger campaign finance rules

By Christopher Cadelago, Staff Writer
San Diego Union-Tribune, February 20th, 2012

Supporters of state legislation to require more prominent disclosure of political donations in advertisements are hoping that a bipartisan approach will bolster their chances of passage in the Legislature.

Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego, on Monday announced a new version of the legislation a month after a similar bill failed to garner the two-thirds supermajority needed to modify the Political Reform Act.

Assembly Bill 1648, which was introduced last week, would require political advertisements to identify their top-three contributors of $10,000 or more along with providing a website where voters would be able to obtain more information about an ad's 10 largest backers.

It would apply to all television, radio, print and slate mailers for candidates and ballot measures. Brownley, who recently announced a congressional bid, said the goal was to help Californians become better informed to "proudly participate in an open and transparent Democracy."

The California DISCLOSE Act is part of fresh wave of proposals by open government advocates following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2010 that removed limits on political spending by corporations, unions and individuals.

Speaking this month in San Diego, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi urged support for "super Pac" transparency legislation as a way to restore trust in the country's institutions. Last year, a bill containing similar language fell one vote short in the U.S. Senate.

The state bill came up two votes shy of the two-thirds vote it needed, with Republican Don Wagner, R-Irvine, saying he worried about running afoul of the 1st Amendment.

One Democrat did not support the bill while Fletcher was the only Republican voting in favor. Despite garnering the support of more than 300 organizations, he said it was ultimately scuttled by insiders and defenders of the status quo.

"However, we can't let that stand in the way of doing the right thing," said Fletcher, who is running for mayor of San Diego. "People have a right to know who is funding political campaigns and where true support or opposition is really coming from. And they have a right to know this information as they are watching the ad in real time."

The Political Reform Act of 1974 requires regular reports of political contributions to be filed with the Secretary of State. Fletcher said the information is often unmanageable to the public because disclosures could be presented in a way that distorts the top funders. He added that CalAccess, the online clearinghouse for campaign disclosures, has had well-documented problems with stability.

Supporters of the bill including California Common Cause and California Church IMPACT have secured the support of the Democratic lawmaker and need just one additional vote. The alternative, Brownley said, is going to the ballot.

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