Capitol Alert

Who paid for that political ad? Bill aims to spotlight mysterious funders

No on 61 advertisement from the 2016 election
No on 61 advertisement from the 2016 election

In a record election cycle for spending on California ballot measures, the “No on Prop 61 - Californians Against the Deceptive Rx Proposition, a Coalition of Veterans, Doctors, Patient Advocates, Seniors, Taxpayers, and Members of Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America” committee poured more than $109 million into defeating a proposal to cap drug prices in the state.

It was the single most expensive initiative campaign in California history. And, if your eyes didn’t glaze over first, it would take reading until the end of the 28-word name as it flashed across your television screen to figure out that the advertisement you just saw was primarily paid for by the pharmaceutical drug industry.

Bills have been unsuccessfully kicking around the Capitol for years to address that problem by requiring political ads to clearly identify their major funders.

But proponents say they have finally reached the necessary two-thirds support in the Legislature to approve such a change, and they are rushing now to pass the recently-amended Assembly Bill 249 in the final three weeks of session. It cleared the Senate Elections and Constitutional Amendments Committee on Tuesday.

AB 249, by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, would create new regulations for how campaign committees and independent expenditures must disclose who is paying for their political advertisements, including displaying their top three contributors over $50,000 – whether individuals, companies or labor unions – in TV commercials and mailers, and announcing their top two contributors in radio spots.

The measure is supported by Secretary of State Alex Padilla and groups arguing that more information about the source of money in campaigns will allow voters to make better-informed decisions. No organizations are publicly opposed.

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WORTH REPEATING: “Now we will see if the legislators respect the base of the Democratic Party.” - RoseAnn DeMoro, leader of National Nurses United, on the California Democratic Party’s endorsement of single-payer health care

ROCK THE VOTE: Major changes are coming next year to elections in Sacramento and other counties that will send all voters a mail ballot and consolidate neighborhood polling places into centralized vote centers in an effort to boost turnout. Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis, will share new research into voters’ perspectives on the changes, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.

MINOR CHANGES: A constitutional amendment to lower California’s voting age to 17 has been awaiting a vote on the floor of the Assembly since May. Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, will need a two-thirds vote to advance ACA 10 any further. He’ll join students and Assembly members Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego; Ian Calderon, D-Whittier; and Mullin to rally support for the proposal, 11 a.m. in Capitol Park near 12th and L streets.

PAUSE AND REFLECT: Former Rep. Ellen Tauscher will moderate a conversation with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein about her nearly 25 years in the Senate, California’s role in national politics and the biggest domestic and international challenges of the moment, 6 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. Will protestors crash the event like they have some of Feinstein’s other speaking engagements this year?

TRUCK OFF: With hundreds of millions of dollars available for green projects after recent cap-and-trade auctions, everyone has their own ideas about how the money should be used. Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Richard Pan, D-Sacramento; and Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, will appear at a “Clean Truck and Bus Day” event, 11:45 a.m. on the east steps of the Capitol, calling for auction revenue to fund upgrades of diesel-fueled school buses, transit vehicles and commercial trucks or replace them with cleaner-burning alternatives.

CAPITOL VIPS: Are you on the list? Capitol Weekly unveils its annual power rankings of the biggest movers and shakers in Sacramento who weren’t elected by voters, 5:30 p.m. at a fundraiser party at The Sutter Club on 9th Street.

MUST READ: Contemplating political death, California GOP clashes over party’s path

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff