Issue Ad DISCLOSE Act Introduced by Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin

* AB 1217 Provides Crucial Disclosure on Both Issue Ads and Sham Issue Ads

By Press Release
California Clean Money Campaign, February 25th, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE from the California Clean Money Campaign
February 25, 2018
Contact: Trent Lange, (310) 428-1556

Issue Ad DISCLOSE Act Introduced by Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin
AB 1217 Provides Crucial Disclosure on Both Issue Ads and Sham Issue Ads

SACRAMENTO, CA -- Amid growing concerns about issue ads using secret money to try to kill legislation, and "sham" issue ads that attack candidates yet escape disclosure by not "expressly advocating" for someone, California will again lead the way to greater transparency with the launch of AB 1217, the Issue Ad DISCLOSE Act, authored by Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin.

Special interests' use of issue ads to influence legislation while hiding who's paying for them goes back to the infamous "Harry and Louise" ads that helped kill national health care proposals in 1993-1994. Voters never saw the names of the insurance companies behind the $14 to $20 million in misleading ads.

The problem is growing in California. Last year, a shadowy group called "CALInnovates" placed over 400 ads on Facebook alone trying to kill the California Net Neutrality bill (SB 822). And while the legislature was debating bills on how to hold PG&E accountable for devastating wildfires, PG&E spent over $6 million on "grassroots and other advocacy related to state legislative proposals" while television ads from "The BRITE Coalition" -- probably paid for by PG&E, but nobody knows for sure -- blanketed the airwaves with messages defusing blame without saying who paid for them.

"California has come a long way recently with adding greater transparency to who is paying for political advertisements. AB 1217 builds on that transparency by requiring interest groups, who pay for advertising intended to influence the outcome on matters before the Legislature, to disclose who is actually paying for those ads," Mullin said. "AB 1217 is common sense; it simply allows the public to better understand which interest groups are seeking to influence and shape California public policy."

AB 1217 expands the reach of AB 249, the California DISCLOSE Act, passed in 2017, and AB 2188, the Social Media DISCLOSE Act, passed in 2018, both authored by Assemblymember Mullin working with the California Clean Money Campaign. AB 1217 adds "issue advocacy advertisements" to the Political Reform Act definition of "advertisements", so that issue ads on television, radio, print, and social media will be required to clearly list their top 3 funders, just as AB 249 and AB 2188 require for ballot measure ads and independent expenditures about candidates. In addition, like ballot measure ads, issue ads will be required to use AB 249's nation-leading earmarking rules to show true funders even if they try to hide behind front groups.

AB 1217 also requires "electioneering communication" ads that name or depict candidates from 120 days before the primary to the date of the general election to clearly show their top 3 funders. Currently, such ads can avoid disclosure requirements by attacking candidates without "expressly advocating" for or against them. Over $26 million in such sham issue ads were reported (under lobbying laws) in California since 2010.

"We're thrilled to be working with Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin on the Issue Ad DISCLOSE Act to build on our historic victories together passing the California DISCLOSE Act and Social Media DISCLOSE Act," said Trent Lange, President of the California Clean Money Campaign. "Legislation can have as much -- or more -- effect on people's lives as ballot measures, so it's just as wrong to allow issue ads to mislead voters about who paid for them."

DISCLOSE is an acronym for Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.

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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.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

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