Newman (D-Fullerton) piles up five bills - and each of them is designed “to reflect the kind of pragmatic policy [he] came to office to create.”

Senator Newman introduces campaign finance transparency legislation

State Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) introduced legislation to provide better access and legal oversight of digital political advertisements as called for by the Fair Political Practice Commission’s (FPPC) Task Force on Digital Transparency.

SB 921 would create an easily accessible online archive of every digital political ad employed by a political campaign or committee. This repository will provide voters and stakeholders more information about campaign activity, including the messaging used by committees, their funding sources, their intended audience and the amounts paid to the platforms or persons.

An online archive was the primary recommendation from the 2021 report from the Task Force on Digital Transparency.

“For all of their obvious impact, it’s easy to forget that digital political ads are seemingly here one moment and gone the next. SB 921 will give the public the ability to hold the creators of digital political advertisements accountable, in terms of both their assertions and their funding,” said Senator Newman. “Transparency and accountability go hand in hand with promoting honesty in political campaigns.”

Currently, tools for locating and reviewing digital political advertisements fail to provide sufficient levels of transparency about the source and funding. All political ads require disclaimers, which inform the public who is paying for a communication. Digital disclaimers are modeled after print and television, which has created regulatory gaps as new technologies are developed and deployed.

While some online platforms retain and make available certain information about political advertisements, what constitutes a political advertisement and what kind of information is required to be disclosed is ambiguous.

“In this fast-changing digital world, a California political ad archive would provide California voters an easy way to find out who is responsible for each ad they receive,” said FPPC Chair Richard C. Miadich. “The FPPC is grateful for Senator Newman’s support of this concept, which will help California to continue being a national leader in campaign finance transparency.”

The use of these digital ads has skyrocketed in recent years. In the 2015-2016 election cycle, digital media accounted for only 2-3% of political ad spending. By 2020, this figure had ballooned to 18% of total spending.

Several cities, including Los Angeles and New York, have created publicly run campaign ad archives that allow the public, academia and the news media to access digital campaign advertisements and locate additional relevant information. SB 921 will establish a similar public resource on a statewide level in California.

This article was released by the Office of Senator Josh Newman.