Improved Disclosure in Campaign Finance

It's been a busy couple of days at the State Board of Elections. The new campaign finance law, which took effect last Saturday, has triggered a rush of filings as political committees get into compliance with the new requirements.

Among these are provisions that all active political committees file updated Statements of Organization to indicate if they are candidate, party, ballot initiative, or general committees. Committees can also file their D2 Semi-Annual Reports for the last half of 2010.

Beginning on the first day of the year, the new law requires all political committees to report large donations of $1,000 or more within five business days. This provision has the potential to mark a significant shift in the public's understanding of how money flows to candidates and interest groups, and this requirement is not dependent on the election calendar. In years' past, these A1 reports were due only in the final days before an election. Now, political committees must report large donations throughout the year, and as a result the public will be able to monitor large donations at other times than just before an election.

Is there a key vote coming before the city council? Is there a hot proposal floating before the county board? The new requirement will allow voters to see if contributors are speaking with their wallets at the same time that lobbyists are speaking in committees.

The first A1 report of the new year, covering large donations received since last Saturday, are due at the State Board of Elections by Friday. Committees would have stopped filing A1s after the February 22 election, but thanks to the new law, expect to see reports like this throughout the year. There will likely be an increase in frequency in the weeks before the February 22 and April 5 elections, but at any point in the future, if a political committee receives a contribution of $1,000 or more, it will be filing an A1 to disclose that to the public. Voters have a right to know how campaign donations might affect elections; now the general public will have an easier time telling if campaign donations are affecting public policy.

Newly filed A1s will be listed here on the SBE website, and as always, they are fully searchable. See what you find!