SF Considers How to Take Prevent Outside Spending from Swamping Public Financing System

SF Reporter: “It’s been nine months since city voters elected a new mayor and new councilors to office. The election saw all three mayoral candidates, including winner Javier Gonzales, opt into public financing to presumably limit special interest money in the election. Instead, multiple political action committees backed by organized labor spent nearly $60,000—the same total amount the mayoral candidates got from public financing—supporting Gonzales and giving him what some criticized as a lopsided edge to winning the race.

“Now, the city’s Ethics and Campaign Review Board is reviving that discussion.

“Things are still pretty preliminary. In a meeting Wednesday afternoon, the board appointed a subcommittee—a move that shouldn’t surprise people familiar with how the ECRB does business—to brainstorm ideas to reform the city’s public campaign model.”

CA SoS Plans to Modernize State’s Voter Registration, Campaign Disclosure Processes

Tech Wire: California’s New Secretary of State Alex Padilla in an interview
“AP: There are three that are immediately at the top of the list. One is a program called VoteCal. That’s the centralized voter registration database that is required by the federal government. It’s a project that’s seen numerous delays. The current timetable has it coming online in mid-2015. So the stakes are high on a successful rollout. It’s important not only for federal compliance, but also for other tools that it can enable, including our same-day voter registration law. The ability to show up on Election Day, register and cast a ballot is contingent on this system being up and functioning.”

“The third is not a project yet, but will be. Our Cal-Access system, the campaign finance information website and database – that definitely needs to be revamped. Not just making it more reliable, but a complete overhaul. I think ideally, you could have much more frequent disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures. Right now, legislators and constitutional officers don’t have to disclose, sometimes for up to six months, their fundraising spending activities. So there would [need to be] a legislative change.”

CA City Council to Vote on Expanding Ethics Commission’s Power

East Bay Express: “The second prong of a plan by city Councilmember Dan Kalb to increase transparency and accountability in City Hall calls for the council to approve the Oakland Government Ethics Act. The act would give the ethics commission the power to enforce a new, sweeping set of ethics rules in the city. The council is scheduled to hold a final vote on the act on December 9.

“As strange as it sounds, the Oakland Public Ethics Commission (PEC), created by city voters in 1996, has never had the authority to actually enforce ethics rules, in part because Oakland didn’t have a comprehensive set of regulations like other cities do. Instead, the PEC has focused mostly on political campaign reporting violations, local open-meeting violations, and other issues. However, the PEC lacked the staff and authority to actually do anything about those violations when it found evidence of them.

“Measure CC, a city charter amendment, changed that aspect of the PEC. It mandated that the city council, beginning on July 1 of next year, increase the PEC’s budget from about $300,000 a year to about $750,000 a year so that the commission can hire four additional full-time staffers. Currently, the PEC only has a budget for two full-time staffers — not enough to effectively investigate campaign finance and open-meeting laws.”

“But not included in Measure CC was a comprehensive set of ethics rules. And that’s where the Oakland Government Ethics Act comes in. Drafted by Kalb and a working group of good-government advocates and co-sponsored by City Attorney Barbara Parker, the act would give the PEC the power to enforce new rules that ban so-called revolving-door and pay-to-play politics and limit the value of gifts that politicians can receive from lobbyists and other special interests.”