Legislature Moves Forward on Plan to Improve Campaign Donor Reporting

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The California State Senate approved a bill this week to update Cal-Access, the state’s online database for campaign finance reports and lobbying information. The website has seen little enhancement since launching thirteen years ago. SB 3, authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), would require the Secretary of State and the Fair Political Practices Commission to explore costs and logistics associated with updating the system, which provides public information regarding candidates, campaign donors, and lobbying.

Leland Yee
  • Leland Yee
“These changes would provide voters with more information about what goes on in Sacramento,” said joint author of the bill, Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance). “More accountability means better government.”

Another provision of the bill mandates that campaign treasurers receive training in campaign finance law through online courses to improve election procedures.

“Cal-Access is a system that was modern and cutting edge in 2000,” said Philip Ung, Policy Advocate for California Common Cause. “However, that was a few years before MySpace was considered modern and cutting edge. In our digital era, the government should embrace transparency.”

In the past, the Secretary of State’s system for reporting how much money politicians receive from donors and how much cash lobbyists get to influence lawmakers has crashed for extended periods of time, preventing journalists and citizens from accessing the information. When the site went down for several weeks in November and December 2011, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen said that a new system would cost millions of dollars.

The bill now heads to Governor Brown’s desk to await his signature.

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