Capitol Alert

Shining light on dark money * Protecting women at work * CA says it wasn’t hacked

Ann Ravel says Federal Election Commission is dysfunctional

Ann Ravel, a member of the Federal Election Commission, spoke with Dan Morain of The Sacramento Bee on May 16, 2016 about the agency's lack of enforcement.
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Ann Ravel, a member of the Federal Election Commission, spoke with Dan Morain of The Sacramento Bee on May 16, 2016 about the agency's lack of enforcement.

It’s that time of year again. Candidates are gearing up for the general election. And with that, comes a flood of campaign donations from a variety of sources.

At 6:30 p.m. today in San Jose, there will be a documentary screening of “Dark Money” and a panel discussion highlighting the influence of corporations in U.S. elections. Ann Ravel, former chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission and Federal Election Commission, appears in the documentary and will participate in the panel.

In an interview with The Bee, Ravel painted a bleak picture of the current political climate and offered insight into the challenges the government faces in tracking money and enforcing campaign finance laws.

At the national level, the FEC has six members evenly split by party, increasing the amount of deadlock votes. In a 2015 appearance on “The Daily Show,” Ravel called the commission “enormously dysfunctional.” Asked what the commission actually did, she replied, “Very little.”

In her conversation with The Bee, she accused Republicans of launching “a purposeful decimation of the FEC.” Ravel also criticized lawmakers more broadly for not taking greater steps to promote transparency. A common way to avoid detection, she said, is to have money go through the hands of so many people that it gets lost in the tracking process.

“California is good, but part of the problem is there are so many ways that people funnel money from one group to another to another to another,” Ravel said.

Another strategy is to bury money within campaign committees.

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, is working on a bill that aims to shine a stronger light on individual donors. Assembly Bill 2155, among many things, requires an advertisement to include the words “committee major funding from” followed by the names of the three top contributors to the committee paying for the advertisement. The contributors would be those who give a total of least $50,000.

Ultimately, Ravel says, change will need to come from public pressure on lawmakers.

“If people were more outspoken, I think there would be incentive for Congress to make some changes,” she said. “There are some who care about the issues, but unfortunately, not enough.”

WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE

The California Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace is holding a hearing at 5 p.m. today in Los Angeles about retaliation employees faces in confronting sexual harassment on the job. Two hotel workers included in Time Magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year “Silence Breakers” will discuss their experiences.

“We must ensure women don’t face the loss of their job or other punishment because they simply assert their rights at work to be free of harassment,” said a statement from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, D-San Diego, the committee’s chairwoman.

HACK ATTACK

On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton presidential campaign. According to the indictment, Russia hacked the website of a state board of elections “and stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver’s license numbers.”

In a statement, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said it confirmed California was not the state referred to in the federal indictment. “There is no evidence of a breach of California’s election systems in 2016 and Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reiterated that Russian efforts did not alter votes in the 2016 election.” While he says the integrity of the vote was not compromised in California, Padilla called the indictment “a stark reminder that cyber threats to our elections are very real — and they won’t be going away.”

With Russian meddling in mind, California’s latest budget invests $134 million to safeguard election systems. It also provides $3 million for the creation of the Office of Elections Cybersecurity and the Office of Enterprise Risk Management.

INFLUENCER OF THE DAY

“Education and reskilling are to key to preparing our workforce for the disruptions that automation and AI are having on the economy. Supporting adult learners and the labor organizations that represent them is vital to our economic future. I am confident that the California Community Colleges will respond to this challenge.”

— Eloy Oakley, Chancellor of California Community Colleges

When robots take California jobs, what happens next? Influencers have plenty to say.

MUST-READ: ‘I can’t be a felon’: Gun owners sue California over faulty weapon registration system

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