Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown signs new disclosure rules for nonprofit-funded junkets

California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a gathering of political, business and community leaders at the annual California Chamber of Commerce Host Breakfast in Sacramento in May. Brown signed several political ethics bills Saturday but vetoed another.
California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a gathering of political, business and community leaders at the annual California Chamber of Commerce Host Breakfast in Sacramento in May. Brown signed several political ethics bills Saturday but vetoed another. AP

Gov. Jerry Brown, offering a mixed reaction to legislative proposals to change the political-ethics law he helped pass 40 years ago, signed a bill Saturday to require nonprofit groups that pay for lawmaker travel to disclose their donors.

But the Democrat vetoed a measure that would have updated the business, income and other information that politicians have to reveal on annual financial disclosures filed with the state. In a veto message for Assembly Bill 10, Brown said the state Political Reform Act’s existing disclosure rules already adequately prevent conflicts of interest.

“This bill adds yet more complexity to existing reporting requirements without commensurate benefit, and I am not convinced that this bill will provide more useful information to the public,” Brown wrote.

The nonprofit donor-disclosure measure, Senate Bill 21, will increase reporting about the special interests who pay for the hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawmaker travel arranged by nonprofits with mostly innocuous names, such as the Pacific Policy Research Foundation and the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy. The law also will require lawmakers to disclose where they went.

“I believe that more transparency and disclosure around these travel related gifts are in everyone’s best interest,” state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, the bill’s author, said in a statement.

Then-secretary of state Brown, when he ran for governor in 1974, championed Proposition 9 on that year’s ballot. The measure created the the Fair Political Practices Commission and the Political Reform Act, the foundation for the state’s political-ethics rules and regulations.

The commission opposed another bill Brown signed legislation Saturday, AB 1544, by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, that will relieve lawmakers of reporting grants or other so-called behested payments they helped arrange in cases when the source is a government agency. Arranging such payments is a normal part of a lawmaker’s job, supporters said.

Brown also signed AB 990, which will expand disclosure requirements for campaign pieces from independent groups, who often play a major role in legislative campaigns.

The bill’s author, Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, said the bill emerged from her experience as a candidate in this year’s special election in the East Bay’s 7th Senate District. Independent groups’ multimillion dollar onslaught confused voters about who was responsible for the hit pieces, Bonilla said.

Bonilla ended up losing the Senate contest to fellow Democrat Steve Glazer, a former adviser to Brown.

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