Providing public access to information about the flow of money in politics is crucial to empowering oversight and creating accountability in the government decision-making process. In addition to informing voters about what interests are funding candidates for public office, campaign finance disclosure can help fuel future reform, enforce existing laws, and even lead to the discovery or prevention of corruption. These impacts help show the power of, and need for, sharing complete and timely campaign finance information.
The current landscape of municipal campaign finance disclosure varies greatly, with some local governments only acknowledging the topic, not providing any real disclosures, while others are making efforts to share detailed information in open formats that are easily accessible and reusable. As we explore the role that open data plays in a broader municipal context, we decided to take a closer look at what a complete suite of campaign finance data would include and to examine the political levers that affect the openness of this data, along with the kinds of accountability and context that its release can create.
To this end, we’ve created a Municipal Campaign Finance Data Guidebook to help local policymakers and advocates create stronger campaign finance disclosure. In this guide, we’ve attempted to answer several questions we feel are important to creating a roadmap to meaningful municipal campaign finance disclosure. This is not meant to be the complete source for recommendations related to municipal campaign finance data or reform. This is an exploration of what is possible, with ideas for how to make possibilities into realities.
This Guidebook will feed into our analysis and review of municipal campaign finance data and related disclosure initiatives. As we learn more (and hear from you), we plan to refine this guide and to promote best practices.
We welcome your feedback.