© 1996 Oakland Tribune
Wednesday, July 3, 1996

Playing politics with our right to know

Now here's a purely political game that characterizes much of what's happening in Sacramento this session.

Republicans and Democrats are playing politics over who might get credit for authoring a bill that would require electronic filing of political campaign contributions and expenditures, and other public information.

The bill's mandates are straight forward. All campaign records would have to be put on the internet for the public to access. Obvious concerns have been addressed such as protecting residential addresses from prying eyes. So what's the problem? The first bill requiring openness for electronic campaign filing was proposed by Assemblywoman Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo. That bill died in the Assembly, killed by the Republican majority.

Now Assemblyman Bruce McPherson, R-Santa Cruz is author of a bill similar to Speier's but with some added improvements. In the new bill, statements of Economic Interest and other documents currently filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) would also have to be disclosed electronically and published on the Internet.

But the key change for political purposes is in the title of the measure. The new bill is titled The McPherson Campaign and Government Electronic Disclosure Act of 1996.

So what's in a name? Plenty. Having your name on a bill this important is valuable political currency to any politician. So the Democrats aren't sure they want to give that to McPherson, who is facing their Democratic colleague Rusty Areias in a hot contest for a state Senate seat.

For the sake of Democrats and Republicans, the legislature should set aside the partisanship that's holding up passage of this bill. They don't have the right to open or close down on information that belongs to the people.

When they hear the bill in the State Senate today, they could solve this problem by titling the bill by its proper name- The People's Campaign and Government Electronic Disclosure Act of 1996.

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