Starting today, all campaign finance reports filed by candidates for municipal, school district and county offices, plus political committees, will be available to the public online.
The effort is part of Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato's promise to make campaign finance records more readily accessible to the public through his initiative to create transparent government practices.
"This is a major milestone in our continuing effort to provide open and transparent government in Allegheny County," Mr. Onorato said.
"The placement of these files on the county's Web site allows the public to examine campaign finance reports at their own convenience, 24 hours a day. Prior to this, citizens were required to visit the county elections office in person to access these documents," he added.
The new county Web site http://apps.county.allegheny.pa.us/campaignfinanceview is scheduled to become operational at noon. The public will be able to search through the site by candidate or committee name, office title, report type and report date by means of convenient drop-down menus.
The original paper copies of all campaign finance reports filed with the county beginning this year will be scanned, converted to electronic documents, and indexed for retrieval and display on the Internet.
Reports will be posted and accessible to the public within 72 hours of each filing deadline, and they will remain accessible for a period of five years.
Furthermore, Mr. Onorato plans to submit new legislation to County Council today, setting what he said are even tighter limits on campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees.
Under Mr. Onorato's new proposal, candidates for County Council could accept no more than $1,000 from any individual and no more than $2,000 from any political action committee during each primary election and general election. The contribution limits would be double for candidates seeking countywide election, including county executive, controller, district attorney, sheriff and treasurer.
In January, Mr. Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced a joint effort to reform campaign finances in the county and the city. They proposed that both governments ought to live under campaign restrictions that were much like federal campaign finance guidelines.
They proposed to enact identical campaign finance laws that would limit personal donations to political campaigns to $4,600 per election cycle and political action committees donations up to $10,000 per cycle (four years).
But two weeks ago, City Council lowered the cap in the campaign finance bill that it approved in an 8-0 vote with one abstention. Mayor Ravenstahl, who is currently seeking re-election, embraced the new stipulations as a sweeping campaign reform bill.
Now, Mr. Onorato has adopted the same campaign limits that City Council approved, even as the campaign finance bill he initially proposed lingers in a County Council committee.
"The time has come for Allegheny County to reform the way we conduct elections," Mr. Onorato said.
Karamagi Rujumba can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1719.