[Sen. Pavley] – State Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, has introduced a bill that would arm voters with the identities of large financial contributors who pump millions of dollars into campaigns to pass or defeat California ballot initiatives.
Senate Bill 844 would increase transparency in the initiative process by creating official online lists of the top 10 contributors for or against each proposition on every California ballot.
“Money plays an enormous role in our politics, but unfortunately voters are often in the dark about who is trying to influence the outcome of initiative campaigns,” Senator Pavley said. “Californians need greater transparency so they can vote with full knowledge of the financial forces working behind the scenes to shape state law.”
California has required online financial disclosure for ballot initiative campaigns since passage of the Online Disclosure Act of 1997. The Secretary of State created a comprehensive online database, an important step toward greater transparency. However, parsing the data to find out the top contributors for or against an initiative requires gathering and re-formatting the data from multiple reports from each of the various committees connected to the initiative. This is a difficult and time-consuming endeavor that makes the information inaccessible to many voters.
For example, compiling a complete list of contributions for and against Proposition 30 – the 2012 initiative to fund schools and close the state deficit – requires 460 mouse clicks, according to an analysis by the nonprofit research organization, MapLight. Third parties such as MapLight have created more user-friendly lists on their own websites, but these websites do not bear an official government seal.
Senator Pavley’s bill instructs the California Secretary of State to convert existing data into lists of top donors that can be easily accessed by all voters. The bill was developed in collaboration with the California Voter Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving the election process. It is one of several bills introduced in the past year to expand voter awareness of proposition donors.
“Voters need reliable information about who is funding proposition campaigns before they make their voting decisions,” said Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation. “A top ten donors list compiled and maintained by the Secretary of State will give voters convenient, immediate, 24-hour access to exactly the information they need to make informed choices.”
Kim Alexander can be reached at 916-441-2494 or email@example.com.
Pavley represents about half of the Santa Clarita Valley in the California Senate.