UPDATE: FPPC thinks twice, will not limit financial disclosures

In a quiet email and with no explanation, the Fair Political Practices Commission reversed course today and said it was withdrawing proposed new rules to limit online disclosure of politicians' financial dealings.

The change followed this Capitol Watchdog blog and reporting at the Contra Costa Times last week that the ethics board was considering removing disclosure of contributions solicited for politicians' favorite charities from the Commission's website after 7 years. It would also have removed the annual Statements of Economic Interests that disclose politicians' personal income after the same time period.

Needless to say, we opposed this needless reversal in the FPPC's otherwise solid record this year of improving political disclosures for Californians.

What purpose could it serve to further limit disclosure of unlimited contributions made to politicians' pet charities by deleting past records?

An FPPC spokesman told the Sacramento Bee that older information is no longer relevant. Yet, as I wrote last week:

Especially in an age of reformed term limits, many politicians in the legislature today may well serve for decades. A sole contribution solicited in 2008 may not reflect direct influence over a vote or action in 2015, but it can certainly help paint a trend and pattern over time of a politician's relationships and who they rely on for support.

Once upon a time, too much data might have felt like dead wood, too voluminous to be used in any meaningful way. Today, technology is giving us new and innovative ways to manipulate government and campaign data every day. We can do more this year with data provided in 2000 than we could for the previous 15 years. It's the worst time to be taking information out of public view.

The FPPC told the Bee that "any narrative" saying they are against disclosure is wrong. Today's announcement made sure they can continue to make that case.

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