It’s no secret that money is key when it comes to all human endeavors, and whether you believe the words to be sacred or not, we do all understand that the phrase “The love of money is the root of all evil” has more than a little truth to it.
And even before the informant Deep Throat advised reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to “follow the money” to get to the heart of the Watergate story, we’ve known that money and politics are enmeshed. It’s even worse for the public if voters can’t tell who is funding political campaigns. How are we to know if legislative votes are being bought and paid for, or if administration policies—at the federal, state and local level—are directed to benefit big-bucks campaign donors if we can’t figure out who is behind the campaign?
That’s the main problem with everything from the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court—which ruled that corporations could make unlimited donations to political action committees and campaigns that were not affiliated with a candidate—to campaign disclosure laws that don’t have enough in the way of enforcement.
We need to know who is paying for politics in order to be sure that our government is not for sale to the highest bidder. We need to know who is funding campaigns so that we can decide whether their interest in the issue is in the public interest or merely self-serving.
We need to know who is paying the bills so that we can tell who is really calling the shots.
And that’s what new legislation, Assembly Bill 1648, the California Disclose Act, would help accomplish. Introduced by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Malibu) and supported by the California Clean Money Campaign, A.B. 1648 would increase transparency in campaign advertising by requiring that the three largest funders of political advertising be clearly identified by both their name and logo.
The provisions of this bill would apply to all political advertising—including mass mailers, TV ads on ballot measures, initiatives and candidates—whether paid for by corporations, unions or wealthy individuals. It will make sure that advertisements provide access to more information about who is paying for what, and it’s specifically designed to pull the curtain back and reveal the man—or woman—for all to see.
That’s right, Toto. A.B. 1648 will mean that we can pay attention to what’s happening behind the curtain.
If an oil company is behind energy legislation, we should know. If a food company is behind labeling legislation, we should know. If a group with unsavory ideals is pushing an initiative, we should know.
In order to wade through the political muck, we need to be able to follow the money.
The California Disclose Act is a step toward a more transparent process, and we urge readers to contact their state legislators to support its passage.