CA Enacts Comprehensive New Campaign Disclosure Rules



Last weekend, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 249 (Mullin), also known as the California DISCLOSE Act, into law. The DISCLOSE Act makes significant changes to the advertising disclosure requirements under California’s Political Reform Act (PRA), including new donor disclosure requirements for organizations that engage in ballot measure advocacy.

Importantly for nonprofits, the new law requires all advertisements for or against ballot measures to list the names of the top three contributors of $50,000 or more to the organization that sponsored the ad. Depending on how much money an organization raises or spends for ballot measure advocacy, this means that certain nonprofits will have to prominently display the names of top donors on their ballot measure advertisements.

The new legislation also expands the rules regarding “earmarked” contributions under state law to include payments to ballot measure committees. To ferret out the “laundering” of contributions, previous state law made it unlawful to make a contribution to a candidate committee on the condition that the committee, in turn, would give the contribution to another candidate, unless the second candidate disclosed the original source of the money. The DISCLOSE Act expands this prohibition against “earmarking” to contributions for ballot measures. This new rule means that nonprofits that receive contributions to engage in ballot measure advocacy will have to take pains to ensure that the true source of contributions is disclosed in certain situations where they are giving money to another committee.

Furthermore, among other changes, the DISCLOSE Act expands the definition of “mass mailing” to include emails, and establishes specific location and formatting requirements for disclaimers on radio, telephone, video, print, and electronic campaign advertisements–including social media. The Act makes it clear that disclosure requirements apply to websites and other electronic media.

These are just a few of the new law’s many provisions which may affect nonprofits engaged in ballot measure advocacy in California. For a comprehensive overview of California campaign disclosure rules affecting nonprofits, please check back soon for our updated California Campaign Finance and Ballot Measure Guide.