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Ethics chief lays out plan for tougher laws

July 7, 2010 |  1:45 pm

The state law governing how political candidates finance their campaigns is outdated, unwieldy and needs to be changed, the head of the state's ethics agency said Wednesday. He announced the formation of a task force to propose revisions to the Political Reform Act some 36 years after it was approved by voters.

"We want to update the act. We want to clarify the act. We want to simplify the act,"' said Dan Schnur, chairman of the state Fair Political Practices Commission. He said he hopes to have recommendations from the bipartisan task force in time for the commission to take them up in January. Schnur aims to bring the revisions before voters by 2012.

Issues that the law does not adequately address include the use of the Internet and electronic communication by political candidates and the need for greater disclosure by political campaigns not controlled by the candidates, Schnur said.

In the shorter term, Schnur said the commission will more quickly investigate allegations of campaign finance violations so that a determination is made before the election, when it can be considered by voters, not months after the election is over.

"I intend to shine a light on those who violate the law in a flagrant way, in real time,'' Schnur told reporters. He said he hopes candidates will be deterred from violating campaign finance rules if the consequence is an embarrassing pre-election headline rather than a fine months after the votes are counted.

Schnur will have to move fast on his agenda. His appointment by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger expires in January, and he does not plan to seek another term as chairman.

-- Patrick McGreevy