California is losing its chief political watchdog this week. Former Orange County Republican Assemblyman and Senator Ross Johnson is stepping down as head of the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission for health reasons.

For those who don’t follow state and local politics closely, the FPPC is charged with keeping a close eye on politicians and their campaigns, from ensuring that spending reports filed by political candidates are accurate to rulings on conflict of interest issues.

It takes a special personality to both understand how politics really works and the fortitude to enforce the law when politicians run amok.

Johnson, 70, has demonstrated those qualities. He represented Orange County for 26 years in the state legislature, serving in leadership positions in both the Assembly and state Senate. He was appointed chair of the FPPC by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007.

Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton writes today about what Johnson would do to improve California politics if he were “king.”

He’d require every politician, from the time he first ran for local sewer board, to acquire an identification number, similar to a Social Security number. Decades later, when that politician runs for governor, voters could punch the number into a computer and track which interests had been supporting him throughout his career.

He’d make campaign contribution and spending reports more user-friendly on the Internet.

“I am computer ignorant,” he says. “But someone with a reasonable level of intelligence and modest understanding of computers ought to be able to get on and access the records.”

Thank you, Ross.


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