Many California counties keeping campaign finances offline
May 31, 2016
Less than half of California’s counties provide the public with online access to campaign finance records. [LA Times]
In 2012, the California Legislature amended the Political Reform Act of 1974, allowing local jurisdictions to eliminate paper filing requirements for campaign statements. The amendment also allowed for the creation of electronic filing systems, but it made e-filing optional.
Currently, 28 of California’s 58 counties provide the public with online campaign finance information. Of those, only 17 including San Luis Obispo County make the campaign statements available in databases that are easy to search and analyze.
The counties that do not provide online campaign finance records are primarily rural and have small populations. Some of the counties say implementing electronic filing systems is too expensive given their tight budgets. Other counties have implemented e-filing systems but have not made them mandatory for candidates and committees.
Annual licenses for local campaign finance portals range from $10,000 to about $100,000.
Gradually, the number of counties that are implementing e-filing systems is increasing. Local elections officials say pressure from journalists and citizens who research campaign finances has caused some counties to adopt e-filing.
SLO County is one the counties that makes e-filing mandatory. It is also one of 16 that use NetFile, a commercial service that administers online election filings in the state. Los Angeles County, which is the only other county that provides full downloadable filings, built its own custom system.
An analysis of contributions on NetFile revealed that political donors in Riverside County have made individual donations of $40,000 or more at least 53 times in the last decade. Some campaign contributions in Riverside County have been as large as $200,000.
As of April 23, no current county supervisor candidate had raised more than $200,000 in total contributions during the current election cycle. Incumbents Debbie Arnold and Adam Hill and newcomer John Peschong have large fundraising advantages in their respective SLO County supervisor races. California’s June 7 primary is now one week away.