Unspun

Nit-picking aside, there is ample and no doubt more interesting blame to be apportioned for the death of this bill. Start with the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the state agency charged with overseeing enforcement of campaign finance laws. The FPPC got its knickers in a knot at the prospect of ceding authority for design of the electronic filing system to the Secretary of State's office. Then there were the Senate Democratic campaign strategists who felt just a bit squeamish about letting Republican McPherson, who's seeking the Senate seat Democrat Mello will be vacating in November, get too much credit for high-profile legislation so close to election time.

And finally, consider that ever-so-robust champion of campaign finance reform -- Hayward's own Bill Lockyer, the Democratic president pro tem of the Senate, who's been curiously quiet during the months of wrangling over electronic filing. Lockyer's stated objection to the bill was a provision, demanded by Assembly Republicans, that would have made it a crime to use information obtained from the electronic filing forms to "harass" campaign contributors. There are indeed some thorny First Amendment issues here, brought into sharper relief by the prospect of electronic filing. But Lockyer, the consummate legislative pragmatist, is not generally known for letting the perfect get in the way of the good. We fear the pro tem protesteth too much.

Phyllis Orrick and Susan Rasky can be reached at SF Weekly, 425 Brannan, San Francisco, CA 94107; phone: (415) 536-8139; e-mail: porrick@sfweekly.com.

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