Newsom Signs Bill Shining Light on Statewide Lobbying Activity

SB 459 requires special interests to disclose spending ahead of key votes

Sacramento, CA – On the last day of the 2022 legislative session, Governor Gavin Newsom announced the signing of a second crucial pro-democracy bill sponsored by California Common Cause. SB 459, authored by Democratic Sen. Ben Allen, requires an unprecedented level of transparency from big-monied special interests when they lobby state leaders during peak periods of the legislative process.

“Californians deserve to know the big monied special interests behind legislation that impacts our everyday lives,” said Jonathan Mehta Stein, Executive Director of California Common Cause. “This legislation puts power back in the hands of Californians by disclosing what groups are spending to influence our elected leaders’ decisions.”

SB 459 improves California’s lobbying reporting by providing vital information about who is “lobbying up” at the 11th hour ahead of a pivotal vote, while that information is still useful. Currently, reporting on lobbying activity is publicly available after the session is over and votes have been taken, leaving no time for transparency to the press or the public. Under SB 459, new lobbying contracts over $5,000 made during the last 60 days of the session must be reported within 48 hours. 

The bill will also put an end to anonymous pressure campaigns by requiring groups trying to exert influence over legislation and lawmakers through issue advertisements, like those seen on social media (“Tell your senator to vote yes on AB XX!”), to put their names on the issue advertisements, a first in state history.

In 2015, disclosures revealed the oil industry spent millions lobbying state lawmakers to kill a specific piece of climate change legislation. Unbeknownst to the public until it was too late to take action, the oil industry targeted specific legislators to kill certain oil-related provisions of the bill, spending over $1.6 million in the final quarter. Ultimately, the industry was successful and the bill passed after their demands were met. SB 459 arms Californians and elected representatives with the knowledge they need in time to make informed decisions and effectively advocate for themselves in the face of special interest pressure campaigns. 

“Too often, popular legislation that would improve the daily lives of Californians is blocked by legislators voting in the interest of their wealthy campaign donors, and not in the interest of their constituents,” said Laurel Brodzinsky, California Common Cause’s Legislative Director. “This Common Cause-sponsored legislation will help expose which of our elected leaders is in the pockets of the special interests and which stand with the people of California.”

With SB 459 signed into law, California has decisively put power back into the hands of the people by shining a light on the big money influencing our politics.

See More: Money & Influence