© 1997 San Francisco Bay Guardian
Thursday, June 5, 1997

Campaign finance on-line

EVER WONDER how much money your state legislator may have taken from big tobacco, or the insurance industry, or the Chinese government? Don't bother searching for that information on the Internet. California lawmakers love to hype the wonders of the information superhighway -- except when it comes to legislation that would make information about their own campaign financing available on-line.

But 1997 might be the year that mandatory on-line disclosure finally becomes law in California. As Daniel Zoll reports, the state senate this week is set to vote on S.B. 49, sponsored by Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach), which would require the electronic filing of political disclosure records by the 2000 election cycle. The bill directs the secretary of state to publish those records on the Internet.

The legislature should approve S.B. 49 as currently written and resist changes sought by assembly Republicans. Some GOP legislators are concerned that people will use information about campaign donors to track down and harass contributors. They are pushing amendments that would eliminate the donor's city or town from the address information that must be disclosed on-line. But if you don't know where a donor lives, you can't be sure who he or she is (there are numerous Jim Smiths in the world) -- or whether his or her interests are those of the district.

Electronic filing won't end political corruption, but it's a modest step in the right direction. S.B. 49 deserves support.

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