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Tag Archive: campaign finance disclosure

Against the ‘Against Disclosure’ column in the New York Times

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In this today’s New York Times’ Gray Matter column, political scientist David M. Primo has penned a piece with a provocative title: “Against Disclosure.” In it, he highlights his own survey research, in which respondents given a hypothetical ballot measure and exposed to news reports that included campaign finance disclosure data did no better identifying the position of different interest groups than those votes who merely read news accounts and saw a voter guide. Both the Times article and Primo’s underlying research are misleading.

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90 Percent of Business Execs Support Transparency Reforms for Money-in-Politics

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Transparent Business ManGood news for making the case for campaign finance transparency! The Committee for Economic Development, a nonpartisan business-oriented public policy nonprofit, released an illuminating report and survey of business leaders this week that shows large majorities of American business executives agree the campaign finance system is in need of complete overhaul, with 90 percent of survey respondents supporting reforms that disclose all individual, corporate and labor contributions to political committees.

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Calling for Common Sense (and Bulk Data) in California

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  Request denied. That’s the response MapLight, California Common Cause, and 10 other media, transparency, and reform organizations (including Sunlight) received last Wednesday to a letter submitted to the office of California’s Secretary of State. The letter made a simple request of Secretary Debra Bowen’s office: Add the option of downloading bulk data from California’s campaign finance and lobbying database (Cal-Access) by posting this information in one, single, downloadable file on this public website, and keep this information up-to-date. Not quite a hamfisted transparency reform, but one that’s proved to be quite revealing about online disclosure in the Golden State. Currently there are only two ways to access the information contained on Cal-Access. The first is to slowly surf through the portal’s online interface, choosing limiting, specific sub-fields of information types (i.e Listing by Certified Election Candidates; Incumbents; etc), and relying on the system to generate specific reports that do not allow users to easily compare (or download) information. The second way is via CD-ROM. Yes, to gain “open” access to structured, bulk data from the state of California about campaign finance and lobbying information, you need to submit a request and pay $5 and wait for the state to send you a CD-ROM. There are a lot of problems evident in this scenario, not the least of which is the delay (up to a month!) caused by needing to translate information that already exists in an electronic format into a “physical” one (the CD-ROM). This delay not only costs the state in terms of staff time and resources, but also has a huge cost to the citizens of California. Californians have a right to unfettered access to public information -- like lobbying and campaign finance reports -- which provide vital knowledge and data about how the state government operates and who is trying to influence that power. Five dollars -- or fifty -- is too high a cost to pay for this access.

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