SACRAMENTO (AP) — Democrats in the state Senate fell one vote short Monday in their effort to force political nonprofit groups to reveal their donors this election season, legislation crafted in response to $15 million in anonymous contributions that came in during the final weeks of the 2012 election season.
Under Sen. Lou Correa’s bill, registered nonprofits would have to disclose the names of their own donors if the money was designated for California political campaigns. It also would require campaign committees that raise more than $1 million to keep a list of top 10 contributors of $10,000 or more, to be posted on the website of the state’s political watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission.
“This bill does not limit what you spend, but rather says let the world know, let the voters know, in a timely basis, the source of those expenditures,” said Correa, a Democrat from Anaheim.
The bill stalled 26-4, falling one vote shy of the 27 needed to pass it as urgency legislation to take effect July 1. No Republicans voted for it.
Two Democratic senators who likely would have joined their colleagues in supporting SB27 are taking leaves of absence to deal with their own political scandals, causing Democrats to fall below the two-thirds supermajority needed.
Republicans questioned the timing of the “clean money” legislation in the wake of those scandals, saying Democrats could easily have passed the bill earlier this year. Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said he and others would support the legislation if it took effect next year.
“It appears that you’re making a partisan issue out of this,” Huff told Correa on the Senate floor. “It’s about the timing of this, it’s about the unfairness of this, to the people who have already given to the nonprofits without the expectation of this.”
He said people who already have made contributions to nonprofits this year would have the rules changed mid-year, potentially making those donations subject to disclosure retroactively.
The legislation stems from an FPPC investigation into what became known as “dark money” meant to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s successful tax increase initiative in 2012 and to back another failed initiative that would have blocked unions’ ability to raise money for political purposes.
Investigators said donors kept their identities secret by giving money to an Arizona-based nonprofit that channeled the money to California political action committees through intermediary groups.
The watchdog commission issued a $1 million fine against two of the groups involved, contending they were part of a network of conservative political nonprofit corporations funded by billionaires Charles and David H. Koch. The committees agreed to repay $15 million in contributions, although it is unlikely most of that money will be recovered.