YEE’S BILL APPROVED TO MODERNIZE CAL-ACCESS

Legislation doubles lobbyist fees, Creates fee on PACs and IEs to fund campaign disclosure system

SACRAMENTO – On a 3-1 vote, the Senate Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments today approved legislation to help maintain and modernize the state’s website that provides public access to campaign contributions and lobbying activity.

SB 1001, authored by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), will create the Political Disclosure, Access, and Transparency Account which will be funded by increased fees of registered lobbyists and a new fee on political committees that file statements of organization, such as independent expenditures (IEs) and political action committees (PACs).

Late last year, the state database known as Cal-Access was shut down for several weeks as a result of outdated technology. The shutdown resulted in the public being unable to access how much money entities were spending on lobbying activity or donating to political campaigns.

“It is simply unacceptable to have such an outdated public disclosure system,” said Yee.  “The crash of Cal-Access not only prevented public access, it meant government was not being transparent or being held accountable. SB 1001 is a commonsense solution to this very serious problem.”

“At a time when the Secretary of State’s campaign and lobbying transparency website is outdated and constantly crashing, this common sense and long-awaited bill will make sure lobbyists and special interests pay their fair share in maintaining this essential public service,” said Phillip Ung, Policy Advocate for California Common Cause.

Currently, approximately 2,000 lobbyists pay only $50 in registration fees for each legislative session. The fees have not been increased since 1974. Yee’s bill would double the fees to $100 and would increase with the cost of living (COLA).

Political committees, such as IEs and PACs, currently pay no fee in connection with their establishment.  SB 1001 will create a $50 per year registration fee for these entities, of which there are about 7,800.

Yee’s bill is estimated to bring in approximately $600,000 to maintain, repair, and improve Cal-Access.

Derek Cressman, regional director for Common Cause, told the Los Angeles Times, “It is outright embarrassing that the state where Silicon Valley is leading the world in computer technology cannot maintain its campaign disclosure system up to modern standards.  It should be a no brainer to raise [lobbyist] fees modestly to finance whatever improvements are needed in the Cal-Access system.”

In addition to Common Cause, SB 1001 is supported by the California Newspaper Publishers Association, Fair Political Practices Commission, Institute of Governmental Advocates, CALPIRG, League of Women Voters, and Californians Aware.

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Contact: Adam J. Keigwin,
(916) 651-4008