© 1996 Bakersfield Californian
June 9, 1996 · Editorial
Use Internet to ID donorsIf you can't change the cash-based system that fuels California's political campaigns, let the light shine on it.
For years, California voters have attempted -- through the initiative process -- to curb the political influence of special interests, big business and wealthy individuals who give their money freely to finance candidates for stae and local offices.
Based on the belief that money is the root of all evil -- and certainly the root of political corruption -- voters have passed initiatives to set limits on campaign contributions.
However, the courts have blocked these initiatives, ruling such restrictions on candidates and donors are unconstitutional.
If the power of the campaing contribution dollar cannot be curbed, at least let Californians know where those dollars are coming from and which candidates have theri hands out.
Perhaps this will allow us to better understand the support special interest groups and individuals receive from state lawmakers, county supervisors, city council members and local district directors.
Assemblywoman Jackie Speier, D-Burlingame, set out to shed some light on campaign contributions with her public access bill, AB 3546, which had the support of Secretary of State Bill Jones, a Republican.
Speier proposed to have all candidates for state offices -- statewide constitutional offices, as well as Assembly and Senate -- file their required campaign contribution reports electronically with the Secretary of State.
These reports would then be made available on the Internet -- through the state home page. Rather than being accessible to only the hardy government junkie willing to make a trek to Sacramento where some of these reports are filed, the information would be given wide distribution. Scrutiny by anyone with a computer, or access to a computer would be relatively easy.
Two votes this month -- one in the Assembly Appropriations Committee and the other in the full Assembly -- effectively killed Speier's bill for now.
The votes divided along partisan lines, with the Democratic majority generally favoring the bill and the Republicans either voting against it, or abstaining.
Efforts are under way to attach the proposal to another measure. Some in Sacramento believe the desire may be to snatch the idea from Speier, a Democrat, and give it to a Republican lawmaker in an attempt to shift credit for election reform.
Regardless of who gets the credit, using the Internet to distribute much-neede information about state campaign contributions should be implemented. In fact, the idea is so good that it should be applied to local officeholders.
Several Kern County departments have launched fledgling home pages on the Internet to provide consituents with information about government services.
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