Governor Signs First-in-the-Nation Cervantes Bill Requiring “Paid For By” Disclosures on Mass Campaign Texts

Thursday, October 10, 2019

(SACRAMENTO) – On Tuesday, Assembly Bill 201, the Text Message DISCLOSE Act, authored by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom. AB 201 is the first law in the nation to require “paid for by” disclosures on mass campaign text messages.

Text messages are a new frontier for political campaigns. Many campaigns already use them as a way to communicate with consenting supporters. However, existing law allows texts to be sent to recipients even if they did not explicitly consent to receiving messages from a particular campaign. It is not surprising that campaigns are availing themselves more and more of this medium, as research shows that the read rate on text messages is 98 percent, and upwards of 90 percent within 3 seconds of their receipt.          

Under current law, the only mass campaign text messages that are regulated are those sent by ballot measure committees or independent expenditures. However, those regulations are set to expire on January 1, 2020. The Text Message DISCLOSE Act will prevent a new loophole from opening in the new year, and increase transparency in our state’s elections laws, by requiring any entity sending mass campaign text messages that support or oppose a candidate or ballot measure to include “paid for by” disclosures. These requirements will apply whether the entity sending the text message is a candidate, political party, ballot measure committee, or an independent expenditure. Ballot measure committees and independent expenditures will also be required to disclose their top funders.

“AB 201, the Text Message DISCLOSE Act, represents a balanced approach to getting dark money out of our politics. It provides California voters with information about who is paying for campaign text messages without burdening the ability to communicate a political message,” said Assemblymember Cervantes. “Voters deserve to know which entities are paying for the campaign media that is being sent to them, and the reforms provided by AB 201 accomplish that goal. I want to thank Governor Newsom for signing the bill into law, and Clean Money Campaign for advocating so strongly on behalf of AB 201. This new law ensures that California continues to lead the way on requiring transparency in political campaigns.”

Trent Lange, PhD, the President and Executive Director of the California Clean Money Campaign, the sponsor of AB 201, added, “Governor Newsom has started his term with a bold statement that California will continue leading the way in political transparency by signing the Text Message DISCLOSE Act and Petition DISCLOSE Act which close loopholes for secret money in politics. Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes showed tremendous leadership as author of AB 201, fighting effectively with us every step of the way to get the strongest possible disclosures for political text messages into law.”

Supporters of the Text Message DISCLOSE Act include: California Clean Money Campaign, California Broadcasters Association, Christine Pelosi, California Common Cause, Climate Hawks Vote, Consumer Federation of California, Courage Campaign, Demand Progress, Democracy for America, Endangered Habitats League, End Citizens United Action Fund, Free Speech For People, Franciscan Action Network, GetThru, GMO Free California, Indivisible CA: StateStrong, LegitAction, Maplight, Money Out Voters In (MOVI), New Progressive Alliance, People Demanding Action, People for the American Way, Progressive Democrats for America – California, Public Citizen, RootsAction.org, Sascha Bittner, Voices for Progress, Voters Right to Know, and Wolf-PAC.

AB 201 was approved by both houses of the Legislature with overwhelming, bipartisan support. The provisions of the bill will go into effect on January 1, 2020. You can find more information about the bill here.

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Sabrina Cervantes proudly represents the 60th District of the California State Assembly, which encompasses the cities of Corona, Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Norco, a portion of Riverside, and the unincorporated communities of Coronita, El Cerrito, and Home Gardens. Cervantes serves as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy.