California doubles lobbying fees to modernize transparency website
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) on Monday signed legislation aimed at improving Cal-Access, a technologically-troubled state-run website that tracks lobbying activity and campaign finance.
The new law increases the yearly fee to register as a lobbyist from $25 to $50. It also requires political committees to pay a similar filing fee of $50 per year. The money raised from the fees will used to maintain and improve the online disclosure system, which has not been updated since 1999.
“It is simply unacceptable to have such an outdated public disclosure system in our state,” said Democratic state Sen. Leland Yeem, who introduced the bill. “The crash of Cal-Access not only prevented public access, it meant government was not being transparent or being held accountable. I am thrilled that the Governor signed SB 1001 into law to fix this very serious problem.”
The Cal-Access system crashed in November 30, 2011 and was not restored until December 7, 2011. The online disclosure system crashed days later, on December 9, and was not restored again until December 30, 2011. The website is expected to encounter more troubles as the volume of information it contains continues to expand.
The legislation was supported by California Common Cause, California Newspaper Publishers Association and Fair Political Practices Commission.
“At a time when the Secretary of State’s campaign and lobbying transparency website is outdated and constantly crashing, this common sense and long-awaited bill will make sure lobbyists and special interests pay their fair share in maintaining this essential public service,” said Phillip Ung, Policy Advocate for California Common Cause.
[Angry woman at computer via Mark Aplet / Shutterstock]