© 1996 Political Pulse
June 14, 1996

Partisan battles appear likely to doom
revival of on-line contribution reports

"Everybody wants to be the hero on this issue, and nobody wants to let anybody else be the hero," says Kim Alexander.

She's talking about efforts to put campaign and lobbying disclosure reports on the Internet for easy public access. Alexander, executive director of the California Voter Foundation, is a leading proponent of that cause.

She was sharply disappointed by the failure of Democratic Assembly member Jackie Speier's enabling legislation, AB 2546, to get out of the Assembly by the May 31 deadline.

Now she and other supporters of instant Internet access to the reports are skeptical that a revival of the effort by Republican Assembly member BruceMcPherson of Santa Cruz will fare any better.

Nobody wants to be quoted, but the general sense is that partisan bitterness over the killing of the Speier bill by Assembly Republicans will doom any revival attempts.

One reason is the title of the measure -- the McPherson Campaign and Government Disclosure Act of 1996. "You don't have to be much of a veteran around here to know that anything with that kind of a title is a campaign vehicle, and isn't going much of anyplace," says one staffer.

As the fight rolls on, McPherson's bill, AB 1026, may not be the only attempt to revive electronic filing.

"One thing that's positive is that each bill is better than the last. We're going to keep trying until we get it right, and hope we can find a way to get agreement down the line," Alexander said this week, after reviewing the latest version of the McPherson plan.

Beth Miller, spokesperson for Secretary of State Bill Jones, said of the latest McPherson proposal, "Secretary Jones supports electronic filing, and we hope this (the McPherson bill) will be the vehicle to get it done this year."

Jones sponsored the original Speier measure. It would have put in place laws to enable him to develop a program for electronically filing campaign disclosure statements and for making the data available to the public on the Internet.

But despite Jones' support, the idea ran into a raft of objections from Republicans in the Assembly. Early on, they complained about provisions for providing free software to candidates, arguing this would interfere with the "free market," in software. Later, Assembly Republicans professed concern over everything from misuse of data by criminals to "high ceiling" loop-holes that would allow Democratic contributors like teachers, trial lawyers and unions to escape reporting provisions.

But Democrats in the Senate say they are skeptical about these arguments. They believe Speier's bill was killed to give McPherson a vehicle.

Alexander reports that Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer is likely to block McPherson's revival attempt because he doesn't want the Assembly member, who is vying with former Democratic Assembly member Rusty Areias for a state Senate seat, to get credit for this bill.

But McPherson thinks he's got a shot.

If Lockyer decides to block the measure, "so be it," McPherson says, but he adds "I think it will get a fair hearing in Senate elections and I know I can get the votes for approval in the Assembly."

-- By Larry Lynch

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