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Campaign data drive accelerates

The cause for Internet access to campaign finance data is advancing in seven states, according to a report by the California Voter Foundation.

Internet access to campaign finance data is advancing in seven states, according to a report issued by the California Voter Foundation today.

The report disclosed that representatives from more than 12 states will meet in Chicago next month to discuss how states can work together to speed the effort.

"We hope that the Chicago conference will mark the beginning of a long-term, collaborative effort," Bob Watada, director of Hawaii's Campaign Spending Commission, said in the report. Every state is facing the same issues and questions as we move toward online disclosure, [and] the Chicago conference will give us a chance to compare systems and learn from each other's experiences.

The efforts to put campaign spending data online has been met with resistance by many politicians but is gaining momentum with a strong grass-roots effort. One example is the "progress report" released today by the California Voter Foundation.

It surveyed seven states (California, Illinois, Indiana, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia) to see how they were moving away from a paper-based filing system. Among the examples:

  • Last week, the California Senate passed a bill that would require candidates to submit their records electronically and require the secretary of state to publish the data on the Net. A state Assembly committee could take up the bill later this month, according to sources familiar with the bill. That comes after a similar bill died last year.

  • Earlier this year, Virginia enacted a law that directs the State Board of Elections to develop an electronic filing system by 1999.

  • Last month, Maryland approved a law that requires digital disclosure by statewide candidates starting this year and by all other candidates by 1999.

    Despite the progress, hurdles remain. "Technical issues still need to be worked out to ensure that agencies can authenticate digital records and to ensure that online data is secure from tampering," the report says. "And while many legislatures have authorized the development of digital disclosure systems, some, like Illinois, have not provided filing agencies with any funding to complete the job."