It's 2012 -- file online: Campaign finance reports shouldn't be on paper
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The calendar says it's 2012, but when it comes to campaign finance reporting, Pennsylvania is living in the past.
Although candidates for the state House and Senate, county judgeships and statewide offices are required to file reports showing who contributed how much to their campaigns, they currently have the option of filing electronically or on paper. In the April primary, only 400 reports were filed to Pennsylvania's Department of State by computer; 1,300 others came in on paper.
That meant the state had to pay an outside firm to manually enter the data, and that citizens didn't get to see many of the results until after the election had taken place.
Campaign finance reporting is intended to ensure that candidates follow the rules for funding their runs for elective office and to provide those details to potential voters. That can't happen unless data is made available before an election.
There's no excuse for this long lag time in an era when nearly all candidates have smart phones in their pockets and computers in their offices.
There are numerous measures under consideration in the Legislature that would vastly improve transparency. They include forcing candidates to file their campaign finance reports electronically, mandating monthly reporting by candidates and political action committees that receive $50,000 or more in a month, and requiring the state department to set up a searchable database, which would make it easy for people to look up information on specific candidates. In addition, some House members would like to increase fines levied against late filers.
All of these measures should be adopted to strengthen Pennsylvania's reporting rules and bring them up to date.
First Published June 26, 2012 12:00 am