Dozens of Palo Altans turned out to a fundraiser Saturday, May 19, to support a bill that would increase funding disclosure requirements for political ads in California.
Assembly bill 1648, the California DISCLOSE Act, would require that the top three contributors to a political advertisement be listed on the ad itself and that the ad include a link to a website that contains the names of its top 10 contributors.
The bill would apply to all television ads, print ads, mass mailers, radio ads and websites. Though it would not affect federal political ads, it would include ads related to local, county and state elections.
Attendees of the event included U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), and assemblymembers Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) and Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park). But the key speaker at the fundraiser was former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, the founder of Progressives United, a nonprofit organization dedicated to limited corporate power in politics.
Feingold framed the bill's passage in the context of the larger national struggle related to campaign finance reform and effects of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010, which proscribed the government from restricting independent campaign expenditures from corporations and unions.
He said the passage of bills such as AB 1648 in places of influence like California would create the kind of energy necessary to overturn the controversial court decision.
"California is the largest state in terms of population and money," he said. "This bill would be a significant victory and a galvanizer for the entire national effort."
The bill is a direct response to a nearly identical bill, AB 1148, which was introduced in the assembly last year but received only 52 votes -- missing the 2/3 votes majority requirement by two votes.
California Assemblyman Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), the bill's principal co-author, said he was optimistic about AB 1648's passage.
"It's been tweaked, and we've refined it a bit better with lots of strong co-authors," he said.
The main difference between the two bills is that AB 1148 required that only the top five funders of an ad be listed on the committee website instead of the top 10.
Feingold answered questions on a variety of issues, including the recall effort of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and impending standoff of raising the federal debt ceiling, but he focused his speech on the historical significance of today's campaign financing climate.
"The wisdom of the nation back to the gilded age has always been that the money you spend at the store on gas or toothpaste should not be spent on the campaign of a candidate you do not support," he said.
Attendees of the fundraiser at the Palo Alto home of Stephanie Grossman were asked to donate between $100 and $1,000 to support the bill.