The Assembly rejected legislation today that would have required independent expenditure comittees to provide more disclosure of their contributors in backing candidates or ballot measures.
Assembly Bill 1148 fell two votes short of the two-thirds supermajority required for passage. Every Democrat but Cathleen Galgiani of Livingston supported it, and every Republican but Nathan Fletcher of San Diego opposed it or did not vote. The final tally was 52-26.
Democrats touted the measure as a way to ease voter cynicism by providing greater disclosure by independent committees, which can spend unlimited sums to support candidates or ballot measures.
Republicans countered that the bill would restrict freedom of speech. What the state needs instead are less restrictive candidate contribution limits, so that donors could give whatever sums they desire to candidate-controlled committees and there would be less incentive to create independent committees, GOP lawmakers said.
AB 1148 would have expanded upon current requirements that independent expenditure committees report the top two contributors of more than $50,000 when they advertise in support or opposition to candidates or ballot measures.
The bill by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, would have required disclosure of the top three contributors of $10,000 or more, and would have mandated that logos of the top three be displayed on political ads published on television, newspaper or in mass mailings.
AB 1148 also would have required that slate mailers place an asterisk next to the name of each candidate or ballot measure for which payment has been received for inclusion in the advertisement.
Under Brownley's bill, major independent expenditure committees would have been required to maintain a committee disclosure website listing the top five contributors of $10,000 or more and providing a link to their campaign filings to the secretary of state.
Policy analyst Phillip Ung of California Common Cause, a key supporter of AB 1148, said the bill's narrow defeat shows that "special interests in Sacramento still have a very strong hold on certain legislators" who "support secret campaign money over the needs of voters."
Trent Lange, president of the California Clean Money Campaign, said the group sponsored AB 1148 and expects similar legislation to be crafted in the Legislature later this year.
* Updated at 1:15 p.m. to add quote from Common Cause