FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
California Clean Money Campaign
Contact: Trent Lange, (310) 428-1556
SACRAMENTO, CA — A new bill to require initiative signature gatherers to disclose to voters the top 3 funders of their signature-gathering before they sign petitions to put measures on the ballot was launched with the introduction of SB 47, the Petition DISCLOSE Act, authored by Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign.
"Every election season, voters are bombarded with requests to sign initiative petitions by paid signature gatherers who aren't required to disclose or even know who's paying for the initiatives they've been hired to qualify," said Senator Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), author of SB 47. "The Petition DISCLOSE Act will build on the California DISCLOSE Act to make sure voters know who's behind the initiatives they're being asked to help put on the ballot."
37 initiatives qualified for circulation for the 2018 election, with 12 qualifying for the ballot. This follows a dizzying 115 initiatives qualified for circulation in the 2016 election, with a near-record 17 measures actually appearing on the November 2016 ballot. Both elections, the propositions that qualified by signature gathering all did so only after their sponsors spent a million dollars or more on paid signature gatherers, with voters rarely knowing who they were.
SB 47 would require initiative signature gatherers to show voters an "Official Top Funders Sheet" listing the top three funders of the committee paying for the petition circulation before they sign. The top funders must be calculated the same way that the California DISCLOSE Act (AB 249, now in effect) calculates funders of political ads about ballot measures, including AB 249's nation-leading follow-the-money earmarking rules that identify the true source of funds even if they pass through multiple front groups. The top funders sheets must be updated monthly, and can also list up to three endorsers.
As introduced, SB 47 is similar to last session's SB 651, also authored by Senator Allen and sponsored by the California Clean Money Campaign, but addresses stakeholder concerns about possible petition reprinting costs. SB 651 required the top 3 funders to be shown on the initiative petitions themselves, which would need to be reprinted if the funders change. SB 47 allows the option to instead use a separate "Official Top Funders" sheet that can be printed by anybody with a regular printer.
"California's initiative process was created over 100 years ago to allow voters to bypass the special interests who had a stranglehold on Sacramento," said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign, sponsor of SB 47. "Unfortunately, special interests now often abuse the very process that was meant to limit their power by spending millions to qualify deceptive initiatives. Voters deserve to know who they are before being asked to sign."
Californians from all major political parties have overwhelmingly stated their support for greater disclosure of who funds initiatives. A March 2018 poll by the California Clean Money Campaign found that 79% of likely voters favored requiring initiative signature gatherers to show voters the top funders paying for their signature gathering. Those in favor include 73% of Republicans, 84% of Democrats, and 78% of independents. Last year's SB 651 passed the Senate on an overwhelming vote of 28-9 with bipartisan support.
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.
California Clean Money Action Fund
3916 Sepulveda Blvd, Suite 208
Culver City CA 90230 United States