Capitol Alert

‘Dark money’ measure pulled by California campaign reform backers

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, talking last year with Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, has introduced Senate Bill 1349 to upgrade the state’s campaign finance database.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, talking last year with Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, has introduced Senate Bill 1349 to upgrade the state’s campaign finance database. Associated Press file

Proponents suspended a campaign on Monday for a ballot measure to trace so-called “dark money” and tighten the rules on lobbying and campaign finance spending.

The Voters’ Right to Know Act sought to ban lobbyists and their clients from giving gifts to legislators and called for an overhaul of the state’s dated campaign finance and lobbying database, among other new rules.

Los Gatos software entrepreneur Jim Heerwagen, who led the campaign, said he ended the initiative because several bills moving through the Legislature, including one introduced Monday to overhaul Cal-Access, tackle some of the same issues.

Heerwagen said collectively the bills demonstrate the Legislature’s “commitment to acting on the public demand for disclosure and transparency.” He added that his group analyzed the cost and outcome of the ballot measure versus the bills before they pulled the initiative.

The campaign collected about $890,000 in contributions, including $670,000 from Heerwagen.

“I’d like to say that the cost is really high and so forth, but I don’t think that was a great surprise to anyone,” Heerwagen said. “The cost of qualifying for the ballot is high.”

Senate Bill 1349, introduced by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, calls for $13.5 million to revamp the state’s 15-year-old campaign finance database into a modern tool that reports in real time how politicians are raising and spending money. Hertzberg unveiled the bill Monday at a news conference alongside Heerwagen, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and a coalition of business and open-government advocates.

Padilla previously pledged to work with the Legislature to secure money for a revamp of the Cal-Access system, which provides public access to campaign finance and lobbying disclosure forms. He expects the overhaul of the system to take several years.

“When it was rolled out, we were in the era of pagers and flip phones,” Padilla said. “The system is long overdue for a rebuild.”

Heerwagen said two other pending bills also carry out the spirit of his campaign.

Assembly Bill 700, introduced last year, requires the disclosure of groups that fund campaign advertisements. Another bill, AB 1200, expands the definition of a lobbyist.

Taryn Luna: 916-326-5545, @TarynLuna

  Comments