Commission proposes ways to increase transparency in Berkeley campaign finance

In an effort to bring more transparency to election finances, Berkeley’s Fair Campaign Practices Commission approved Thursday a set of proposed changes to the 1974 Berkeley Election Reform Act.

The proposals will eventually be presented to Berkeley City Council, which will have to deliberate, vote and hold a public meeting before it can pass the proposed changes into law.

One proposed law approved by the commission Thursday would require any independent committee — a group spending money independently of a candidate or a particular ballot measure — to notify the city clerk’s office of an expenditure of more than $1,000 within 24 hours. The city clerk would then have to notify those affected by the expenditure and post it online within two business days.

The commission also approved a change to the act that would require committees to list their top four contributors of more than $250 on campaign communications that include mailers, flyers, pamphlets, door hangers and paid advertisements in newspapers, magazines and on the Internet.

The commission also suggested changing the current requirement that all campaign contributions of more than $50 are published in a local newspaper to allowing the city to do the same electronically instead — making the process less of a financial burden.

Commissioners Dave Ritchie and Brad Smith said the original tenet is not sensible because of a lack of interest in print publication in the city and because of the cost of publishing in a print newspaper.

“There are no real newspapers in Berkeley,” Ritchie said at the meeting.

Annie Sciacca covers city government.