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The state campaign watchdog agency yesterday approved a regulation that requires more groups running political advertisements identify their funding sources.

The Fair Political Practices Commission voted to update the definition of "express advocacy" to include paid political communication "susceptible of no reasonable interpretation, other than as an appeal to vote for or against a specific candidate or measure."

Currently, political ads must include "magic words," such as "vote for" or "reject," to trigger express advocacy disclosure requirements mandated for independent expenditures. As a result, groups that run ads on a state candidate or issue that do not use those words to urge a particular outcome -- called "issue advocacy" -- do not have to report their donors.

"By forcing the disclosure of those who truly attempt to influence the outcome of an election, we have put an end to the most egregious of campaign tactics. Now, when groups try to stay in the shadows by sending out carefully crafted campaign messages in the days and months before an election that are nothing more than thinly veiled attempts to sway the electorate, the public will know who is behind them," FPPC Chairman Dan Schnur said in a statement.

The change, which FPPC staff said was sparked by recent Supreme Court rulings, takes effect after the Nov. 2 election. Political attorneys opposed the new rule, saying a state Supreme Court decision upholds the "magic words" requirement.


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