Two major steps San Francisco can take to rein in shady campaign financing
The disclosure laws can be tightened too. Campaign ads and mailers have to say where the money's coming from — but only in tiny type or in rushed voiceovers that few people notice. The federal government's mandate that cigarette packages and ads have big, prominent statements about the health risks of smoking has been very effective. Requiring campaigns, particularly independent expenditure groups, to identify their major donors in large, visible type in prominent places on printed material and in clear language on radio or TV ads would help the voters understand the players — and the motivations — behind the campaign material.
2. Deal with the legal violations — promptly. A lot of these big-money campaigns have a tendency to skirt — or sometimes flagrantly violate — the city's campaign law. And by the time the ethics Commission gets around to investigating (if that even happens) the election is over and it's too late.
The supervisors ought to mandate that all credible allegations of election-law violations be investigated — and resolved if at all possible before Election Day. And if that means Ethics needs more staff, that's a small price to pay for honest elections.
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