Capitol Alert

California’s ethics watchdog opposes donor stickers for politicians

Cutouts of legislators with images of their top donors on the steps of the Capitol on Aug. 26, 2015.
Cutouts of legislators with images of their top donors on the steps of the Capitol on Aug. 26, 2015. Courtesy of John Cox

Frustrated about the role of money in politics, a group of California voters is pushing an initiative that would require elected officials to wear NASCAR-like stickers or badges with their top campaign contributors.

The state’s top political watchdog is not a fan.

“I do not think it’s a good idea,” Jodi Remke, chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission, said Tuesday at a Sacramento Press Club luncheon.

Noting that she spoke only for herself and not the agency, Remke said there would be significant challenges and limited benefits to the proposal especially with so many interest groups and individuals donating the maximum amount to any given candidate.

“You know, I’ve heard someone suggest, kind of tongue in cheek, that there be Velcro,” she said. “I don’t know if you have to do a daily change, how often the change is.”

The real problem, she said, is the unlimited amounts of “independent expenditures” for candidates by outside groups.

“It’s not going to address that problem – where the money’s at,” she said.

Remke was more diplomatic about another potential ballot measure aimed at increasing financial transparency in elections.

The Voters’ Right to Know Act would ban lobbyist employers from giving gifts to elected officials and make contributors more apparent on television ads, though its main purpose is to close a “dark money” loophole for nonprofit donors by requiring the disclosure of anyone who contributes $10,000 or more when that money winds up in a political effort.

Remke said there are parts of the proposal she likes, including money to update California’s buggy system for campaign finance records, but she thought it might ultimately add more unnecessary regulations.

“I am not sure the distinction it makes with existing law,” she said. “We have had pretty good success with going after that second layer of disclosure for nonprofits.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff