State Senate advances 'sunshine' measure on campaign ads

State Senate advances 'sunshine' measure on campaign ads
California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), right, and Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) confer. (Steve Yeater / AP)

Following the lead of Los Angeles, state lawmakers have given initial approval to a requirement that candidates for state office provide copies of all campaign mailers and television and radio ads for posting on a state website within 24 hours so the public can review them.

The proposal was made by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) and approved in a bipartisan two-thirds vote by the state Senate on Thursday as one response to the scandals involving three senators.

Padilla noted that a similar program was begun 15 years ago by the city of Los Angeles Ethics Commission and that website  is getting 26,000 hits per month.

"Clearly there is an appetitie from the public to view these campaign communications," Padilla told his colleagues.

The postings, which would also include slate mailers and ads  by campaign committees separate from candidates, allow voters to see who is paying to sway elections and what their messages are. In Los Angeles, that has disclosed when a candidate sent one message to Democratic voters and another to Republicans. The site also helps the press monitor campaign communications for swifter identification of mailers that are misleading.

The proposal is one of several made this year to provide more "sunshine" on campaigns following the March suspension of Democratic state Sens. Leland Yee, Ronald S. Calderon and Roderick Wright, who all are fighting criminal charges. Wright is appealing a jury’s guilty verdict on eight felony counts involving lying about living in his Senate district.

Because the state database would have to be upgraded, Padilla agreed to delay implementation until July 1, 2017. The secretary of state's office said the upgrade and operation of the system would cost $3 million, but Padilla, who is a candidate for secretary of state, said Los Angeles recently sold a copy of its system to Long Beach for $30,000.

"I do believe the $3 million figure is a lot higher than it has to be," Padilla said.

Meanwhile, the state Senate on Thursday approved two other ethics measures, both by Sen. Norma Torres (D-Pomona) and in response to corruption allegations against officials in San Bernardino County.

SB 950 would extend the statute of limitations for charging public officials with bribery from three years from the act to three years from the act’s discovery, allowing more cases to be pursued. SB 952 would expand criminal penalties to private citizens who aid or abet the receipt of a bribe by a public official. All three measures now go to the Assembly for consideration.