About

Political Ads Should Say Who's Bankrolling Them

State: 
California
Who Decides? 
Officials
Current Status: 
In Committee

Political advertising should tell you who's bankrolling it. Issue ads are often used by special interests to convince the public to ask their legislators to vote as the ad directs, all while hiding behind good sounding names.

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 -- blanketed the airwaves with messages defusing blame without saying who paid for them.

California will lead the way to greater transparency with the launch of AB-1217, the Issue Ad DISCLOSE Act, authored by Speaker pro Tem Kevin Mullin.

"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," Mullin said.

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.

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