Voters Right to Know Act Announces Support of Cal-Access Reform Bill

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Proposed Legislation will Modernize Lobbying and Campaign Finance Disclosure

The Voters Right to Know Act (VRTK) announced its support today of SB 1349 (Hertzberg), a proposal to modernize the state’s lobbying and campaign filings database, known as Cal-Access. This bill contains key provisions that mirror proposals in VRTK, including use of a unique identifier for donors and modern search tools for public access to these critical disclosures.

“A modern Cal-Access will be the infrastructure that makes disclosure work for Californians. We commend Senator Hertzberg for his vision and leadership on this issue,” said VRTK proponent Jim Heerwagen. "SB 1349 will make this system easy to use -- for campaigns, citizens and the media. With this project, Californians will have among the most reliable, up-to-date and easily understood view in the country of the money behind campaigns."

Hundreds of millions are spent annually in California lobbying and elections -- much of it untraceable to the true source. Many millions more are unknown due to uneven reporting and outmoded systems.

Cal-Access is a decades old system that has become both unreliable and an impediment to public access to this information. Passage of SB 1349 would signal a major step towards better disclosure of these contributions and expenditures, and a long overdue upgrade to the state’s infrastructure in this regard.

"MapLight's research has conclusively shown that knowing which funders are behind a campaign makes a big difference to voters. We look forward to working with the legislature and the Secretary of State to bring a revised Cal-Access to the people of California," said Daniel G. Newman, President & Co-Founder of Maplight, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks money’s influence on politics.

SB 1349 marks the third legislative proposal to include components of VRTK, which received clearance for signature gathering last November. VRTK was already supportive of AB 700 (Gomez), also known as the California DISCLOSE Act, and AB 1200 (Gordon), which respectively advance significant new disclosures on campaign contributors and lobbying for procurement contracts.

Together, the introduction of these legislative proposals demonstrate the legislature’s commitment to acting on the public’s demand for disclosure and transparency. With their introduction, VRTK has withdrawn its signature gathering efforts and will not seek the remaining signatures for consideration on the November 2016 ballot.

“Voters Right to Know was written to address systemic issues in California’s campaign finance and disclosure system, and to make the state a national leader in these issues. Working with a tremendous team of legal and campaign experts, we developed and introduced a package of reforms that set that bar,” added Heerwagen. “Our team, along with volunteers from the California Clean Money Action Fund and hundreds of committed Californians, are proud to have advanced this proposal across the state and made a direct and immediate impact on the dialogue around these issues in the Capitol. I thank Senator Hertzberg, Secretary of State Padilla and all of Voters Right to Know’s supporters.”

“California Clean Money Action Fund has mobilized thousands of Californians who advocate true disclosure on money in politics and support both AB 700 and the Voters Right to Know Initiative,” said Trent Lange, President and Executive Director of the California Clean Money Action Fund. “We have been proud to support this proposal, and will organize in support of SB 1349, AB 700 and an open and accountable government that is responsive to the needs of all Californians.”

Supporters of the Voters Right to Know will support passage of SB 1394, AB 700, and AB 1200 and continue to advocate provisions not yet under consideration by the legislature, including the tracing of contributions through non-profits and other intermediaries, as well as needed updates to the Political Reform Act.

“Voters Right to Know was an innovative response to the current problems facing the political system, one that has spurred action in state legislatures form California to Maryland,” said Ann Ravel former Chair of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC).” I applaud Mr. Heerwagen and the supporters of this ballot measure and look forward to collaborating with them to promote responsive and accountable political leadership.”

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Robb Korinke
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