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New finance disclosure tool lists top campaign spenders

A new level of campaign spending disclosure unveiled by the state’s ethics agency Tuesday enables voters to quickly see the top donors in this year’s ballot measure fights and other campaigns.
"Our goal is 'one site, one stop' for this vital information that voters can have access to before the election, with daily updates," said Jodi Remke, chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission.

The lists are the product of a new campaign finance law that went into effect July 1. The measure was introduced in response to a controversy surrounding $15 million in contributions funneled through a network of nonprofit groups in 2012.

Committees that have raised at least $1 million to support or oppose ballot measures are required to provide a list of their top 10 donors that gave $10,000 or more to the ethics agency and file updates within 24 hours if that list changes.

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The requirements also extend to committees formed to independently support or oppose candidates. Committees controlled by the candidates themselves do not need to report their top donors, although those accounts are subject to strict contribution limits.

Jessica A. Levinson, an election law professor at Loyola Law School, said the format of the top 10 supporters and opponents "is a way of getting the voters cues about what these ballot measures really do."

“Most voters will figure [for example] ‘my interests are generally aligned with Realtors or environmentalists,’” she said. “For a lot of people, that shortcut is a lot more useful than going through the proposed language [of the measure], which is frankly not as accessible.”

The law also seeks to curb anonymous political spending by requiring an organization to reveal its donors if it spends or contributes at least $50,000 in one year or more than $100,000 in four consecutive years.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.

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