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California Leads The Way in Transparency

Originally published on Huff Post on 12/22/2018

Trent Lange with California Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León and Clean Money supporters after crucial hearing for California DISCLOSE Act..

Over the past year, I have interviewed democracy reformers across the country. I have heard many stories of victories that have pushed state democracies forward, most of which were recorded in my book Daring Democracy, coauthored with Frances Moore Lappé. Since handing in the manuscript, though, there have been many more successes and emerging grassroots efforts. This interview is part of an effort to chronicle these developments in the growing Democracy Movement.

Recently, I spoke with Trent Lange, the president and executive director of the California Clean Money Campaign, the sponsor of the 2017 California DISCLOSE Act. He has worked with CCMC since 2003 and has participated in numerous state ballot measure campaigns including the 2011 Measure H campaign that strengthened the system of public campaign financing for Los Angeles.

Adam Eichen: It’s been about two months since the DISCLOSE Act passed in California. First of all, congratulations. What an achievement! Can you explain why better disclosure on political ads so important?

Trent Lange: Thanks! For a while now—especially since Citizens United—SuperPac and ballot measure ads have been purchased by wealthy special interests that hide who’s really paying for the ads. So we see deceptive but convincing ads that mislead viewers about who’s behind them.

California has long had some of the strongest disclosure laws in the country. For instance, we have online reporting of political spending and require many ads to display their top two funders. But that’s not good enough. Ads bury disclosures in fine print. Worse, special interest funders often funnel their money through nice-sounding front groups like “Californians for Happy Children” that are disclosed instead of them.