News & Publications

California Governor Signs Bills Updating Political and Nonprofit Disclosure Requirements

California Governor Jerry Brown closed out his legislative signing period by approving a flurry of bills that change the disclosure and reporting requirements for political and nonprofit groups active in the state. These changes, highlighted below, may establish trends in other jurisdictions.

AB 990 (Bonilla)– Inspired by Assembly Member Bonilla’s experience earlier this year running against Steve Glazer in the special election to fill the Senate District 21 seat, AB 990 imposes additional disclosure requirements for mailers that support or oppose a candidate and are paid for by independent expenditures. The bill additionally changes the standard written disclosure statement required by the Political Reform Act (“PRA”) for campaign mailers, increasing the minimum font size and requiring disclaimers be written in a specific family of fonts. Assembly Bill 990 also imposes more reporting and disclosure requirements on ballot measure committees that pay individuals to appear in advertisements. Passed as an “urgency” measure, the provisions of AB 990 took effect immediately on October 10, 2015.

AB 594 (Gordon)– The bill makes technical, but important, changes to streamline reporting under the PRA. Assembly Bill 594 eliminates the filing requirement for certain pre-election and independent expenditure reports, and establishes a uniform pre-election reporting calendar for both even and odd years. The new law also increases the monetary qualification threshold for a recipient committee from $1,000 to $2,000. Nielsen Merksamer clients will receive more information about these changes in Political Reporting Reminders.

SB 21 (Hill) – Nonprofit organizations that spend more than one-third of their total expenses on travel, tours, and conferences for state or local elected officials are now required to disclose information about certain donors in an annual report to the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Specifically, a nonprofit organization must identify donors who contribute $1,000 or more to the nonprofit and accompany an elected official for any portion of a trip paid for by the organization. The new law also requires elected officials who receive travel payments to disclose the payments on their annual statements of economic interest.

AB 1544 (Cooley)– In a somewhat surprising move, the Governor signed AB 1544, which reduces reporting requirements for elected officials who solicit payments from federal, state, or local agencies. Officials are generally required to report any payments over $5,000 they solicit for “legislative, governmental, or charitable purposes,” but AB 1544 eliminates the reporting of such “behested” payments made by government agencies.

Notably, Governor Brown vetoed other legislation intended to expand political disclosures, including AB 10 (Gatto) which would have required state and local officials to provide additional information to the public about their economic interests. We have provided additional California legislative highlights from this session in past client updates.

National Developments. The firm’s National Compliance team has tracked legislation, regulatory developments, and litigation concerning campaign finance, lobbying disclosure, and government ethics in the 50 states and many local jurisdictions throughout the country. Subscribing clients receive updates on these matters on a monthly basis. The firm will provide more information about national developments in the coming months, in connection with the next meeting of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws.