When Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jim Heerwagen decided to invest in an effort to reduce the influence of big money on politics, he considered a push for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. “Then I realized I could be dead or not remember where my car keys were by the time that happened,” he said. Congressional proposals to tighten federal campaign finance rules seemed like long-shots, he concluded: “They just weren’t going to go anywhere.” So Heerwagen looked to make a stand in the more hospitable political environs of California. After commissioning a poll and hiring political strategists, the former software executive and his team of election law experts are rolling out an unusual measure they hope to get on the ballot in November 2016.
Dubbed the Voter’s Right to Know Act, the proposed amendment would enshrine in the state Constitution the right to campaign finance disclosure — making California the first state to put it on par with the rights to speech and privacy, among other fundamental guarantees.
The measure also would require political ads to display their top “true donors” and overhaul the state campaign finance disclosure database to make it easier to track special interests.
The goal, Heerwagen said, is “to create tracing mechanisms that would enable people to find out who was behind any message, to uncover the secret money.”