Californians, horrified by the Supreme Court’s terrible decision allowing more money to enter the political process, received a minor consolation the following day when GovernorJerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 800.
The measure is sorely needed, as it gives the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) the power to enforce campaign finance rules before and after elections. Until now, for example, theFPPC could not audit the accounts of a political action committee until after the electionin other words when it was practically too late.
This lawis important as money is increasingly flowing in from outside our state through labyrinths meant to hide the origin of the funds from voters. This very thing occurred in the 2012 elections with Proposition 30, which raised taxes to collect more money for education, and Proposition32, which sought to limit the political influence of unions.
In this case, organizations from outside California linked to the wealthy, conservative Koch brothers, spent millions of dollars to defeat Proposition 30 and promote Proposition 32. Last year, the FPPC fined two state organizations that received the money without disclosing its source.
It is hard to control the money that circulates in politics whenthe courts consider it Constitutionally protected individual expression. What can be done is to demand transparency, virtually immediate reporting of money received by candidates and committees, even if it makes them uncomfortable.
Regulators must also be given more authority, as in the case of A.B. 800, so they can provide timely oversight of the movement of political cash.
The goal of all this is to ensure that voters are able to make their decisions with knowledge of who is funding a candidacy or ballot initiative. For that reason, investigations must take place before the election, as established by the new law.