Proposed Legislation could make California Campaign Finance Records Easier to Obtain
In January, Assemblyman James Gallagher proposed a bill that will make it easier to access campaign finance records for candidates in city and county races and it will hopefully increase government transparency. Californians can already access campaign finance records online for state and federal candidates, but campaign finance records for candidates in city and county races have not been as easy to access. Assembly Bill 322 would require local election officials to post campaign finance records online, instead of only making them available in hard copies at local government offices. Daniel Newman, president and co-founder of a nonpartisan group that tracks the influence of money in politics called MapLight, stated the following regarding AB 322,
We the people pay for the salaries of politicians and we need to know who’s funding their campaigns in order to judge if they’re acting in our best interest. In many cities and counties, you have to get yourself physically during business hours to the county or city office and find the right room and find the right binder and find the right document. It’s like almost unmanageable for people who work.
AB 322 will require that local government agencies post on its internet website “…a copy of any statement, report, or other document required by Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 84100) that is filed with that agency in paper format.” The bill will also give the Commission on State Mandates the ability to determine if reimbursements to local agencies and school districts for those costs associated with the bill are required. Assemblyman Gallagher believes that AB 322 will further the purposes of the Political Reform Act of 1974. A report in 2017 by watchdog group Common Cause found that 70 percent of cities did not post their campaign finance information online, which is a surprisingly large percentage. We will have to wait and see if the proposed bill is passed.