Dan Walters: A snarl of regulation

November 6, 2012 

Let's begin with the bedrock principle that voters deserve full disclosure of who's giving money to whom for what.

In fact, we'd be much better served to make full and immediate disclosure of campaign funds our sole regulation of political money, rather than the complex mélange of federal and state laws, regulations and court decisions that now purport -- but fail -- to protect the political process.

So from that standpoint, the California Fair Political Practices Commission is correct in demanding, as it has done for the last couple of weeks, more information about the source of $11 million in money that flowed into a committee against Gov. Jerry Brown's Proposition 30 and for Proposition 32.

The dustup over the money reached a climax of sorts Monday when the Arizona organization that sent the money into California seemingly backed down and said that it came from two other nonprofit organizations that may not have to reveal their contributors under any circumstances.

One day before Election Day, therefore, we learned what was already evident -- that some conservatives who dislike Brown's tax increase spent money to oppose it -- and we may never know any more than that because of the aforementioned welter of laws, regulations and court decisions.

Brown portrayed his measure as a victim of "dirty money," hoping the controversy would boost Proposition 30.

But without a smoking gun revelation about the real source of the money, and with a huge number of votes already cast by mail, the impact is very uncertain.

Were Proposition 30 to lose, especially were it to lose narrowly, Brown & Co. would undoubtedly blame the late infusion of opposition money.

It would be nice to know who contributed the money. It would be even nicer if the controversy resulted in more rational political disclosure laws and less nitpicking regulation.

E-mail: dwalters@sacbee.com

THE SACRAMENTO BEE

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