Correction: Campaign Finance Reforms story

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - In a story Feb. 20 about campaign finance reporting bills in California, The Associated Press misidentified a lawmaker opposing one of them. Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irvine, criticized SB27, not Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Bills strengthen campaign finance reporting laws

Bills strengthen campaign finance reporting laws, will require more disclosure from nonprofits


Associated Press

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Lawmakers approved a pair of bills Thursday to strengthen the authority of California’s campaign watchdog agency and require political nonprofits to reveal their donors, changes that will be in effect for this year’s elections if signed into law by the governor.

Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate passed the legislation over Republican opposition. Both measures respond to $15 million in anonymous donations funneled into two 2012 initiative campaigns that prompted the largest campaign reporting fine in California history.

The Assembly approved SB27 by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, on a 54-17 vote. The bill requires tax-exempt nonprofits that are actively involved in elections to comply with campaign finance reporting requirements. This includes disclosing donors who understood their money was intended for California campaigns. A similar proposed ballot measure served as a backup in case the Legislature didn’t act, attorney Lance Olson said.

Supporters say the bill closes an exploited loophole, while Republicans say this could lead to donor harassment.

State regulators investigated a murky trail of “dark money” that was spent to oppose Gov. Jerry Brown’s successful tax increase initiative in 2012 and to support a separate, failed initiative that would have limited the ability of unions to raise money for political purposes. Donors concealed their identities by giving money to an Arizona-based nonprofit that funneled the cash to California political action committees through intermediary groups, investigators said.

California’s watchdog Fair Political Practices Commission issued a $1 million dollar fine against two of groups involved, saying they were in a network of conservative political nonprofit corporations funded by billionaires Charles and David H. Koch. The committees agreed to repay $15 million in contributions, but its unlikely most of that money will be recovered.

“This bill is about addressing a rising tide of schemes and dark money organizations who don’t have any accountability to the public,” said Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville.

But Republican lawmakers say the bill infringes on people’s right to participate in a democracy without facing retaliation.

“There’s a reason for anonymity,” said Republican lawmaker Donald Wagner, R-Irvine. “Let’s not take that one incident and throw out years, decades and centuries of tradition.”

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