Saturday, October 11, 1997

CONTACT: Kim Alexander, (916) 325-2120


Sacramento -- Culminating three years of legislative and public interest efforts, California Governor Pete Wilson today signed Senate Bill 49, a landmark bill that mandates electronic filing of, and Internet access to California political disclosure records.

"Today is an historic day for California voters," said Kim Alexander, Executive Director of the California Voter Foundation (CVF), which has been at the forefront of the movement toward digital disclosure. "SB 49 dramatically improves the public's ability to scrutinize and appreciate the role money plays in California politics."

SB 49 was authored by Senator Betty Karnette (D-Long Beach), and enjoyed strong, bi-partisan support, passing in the Senate by 31-2 and in the Assembly by 73-3. California Secretary of State Bill Jones was a leading proponent of the measure, which was also supported by numerous civic groups. Specific provisions of SB 49 include:

In the 1998 general election: mandates statewide candidates and ballot measure committees that raise or spend $100,000 or more to digitally disclose their records; directs the Secretary of State to publish online last-minute contribution and independent expenditure reports within 24 hours.

In the 1999-2000 election cycle: phased-in mandatory electronic filing for all statewide and legislative candidates who raise or spend$50,000; mandatory electronic filing for all other entities that file with the Secretary of State, including political parties, political action committees, lobbyists, major donors and slate mailer committees.

Appropriates $1.1. million to the Secretary of State to carry out the new program.

"The California Voter Foundation applauds the California Legislature and Governor Wilson for taking this bold step into the digital sunlight. With the enactment of SB 49, California moves from the back seat of the digital disclosure movement to the head of the pack," Alexander said.

California joins a growing number of states embracing digital disclosure. This year, thirteen state legislatures -- New York, California, Maryland, North Carolina, Illinois, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Indiana, Minnesota and New Jersey -- passed legislation promoting digital disclosure. 17 other states have mandatory or voluntary electronic filing and online disclosure programs either in operation or in the works. (A complete
round-up of state activities is available in CVF's newly-released Digital Sunlight Progress Report).

California's new Internet disclosure law is one of the broadest and most comprehensive in the countries; for example while many state legislatures passed mandatory electronic filing laws this year, several of them limited the mandate to statewide candidates, excluding their own reports in the requirement. California also requires more information to be disclosed than most other states, such as reports on lobbying activities and summaries from major donors. SB 49 also addresses privacy concerns by directing the Secretary of State keep donor street addresses off the Internet, striking a balance between an individual's right to privacy and the public's right to know.

"Internet disclosure of political expenditures allows us to fulfill the original intent of the disclosure laws," Alexander said. "We passed these laws in the 1970's with the hope that exposing campaign contributions and expenditures to the public would cause politicians to think more carefully about who they take money from and how they spend it. No longer will these contributions and expenditures be hidden away in filing cabinets. SB 49 sheds digital sunlight on California's $300 million campaign finance industry, enabling voters to do a better job of making informed choices,and holding politicians accountable."

The California Voter Foundation is a Sacramento-based non-profit, non-partisan organization pioneering the use of new technologies to help shape a more informed and engaged electorate. CVF has played a key role in the digital disclosure movement since 1995, when CVF and Digital Equipment Corp.
published San Francisco's electronically-filed records on the Internet, creating the first real-time, online campaign finance database. In 1996, CVF began developing Digital Sunlight (, a web site providing resources on electronic filing and Internet disclosure. Also in 1996, CVF launched "Late Contribution Watch", a project that tracked and published online last-minute campaign contributions (SB 49 contains a provision that codifies this program into law). Throughout 1997, CVF has closely monitored California's electronic filing legislation, keeping hundreds of journalists and citizens apprised of developments through its electronic newsletter, CVF-NEWS. For more information, visit CVF's web site at


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This Web page first published 10/1297

Last updated 10/12/97