Reporting Local Campaign Finances

Well, if anyone was wondering why there is a noticeable void of good reporting on campaign finances in local elections… I have the answer.

The answer is pretty simple, but horribly boring.

The answer is a lack of uniformity in campaign finance report rules, a lack of money to throw around and a lack of technological advancement in local governments. More notably, the office-holder hopefuls who are filling out these forms (or are having their buddy/treasurer fill them out) are also fairly technologically challenged.

When I say “technologically challenged,” I am not being hyperbolic. Case and point: when I want to see campaign finance reports for Alice Gordon in 2009, this (PDF) is what I see. Yep, that is a hand-written campaign finance report. There is nothing more arduous than hand writing financial reports, I would guess. Well, except maybe reading hand-written financial reports. At least someone knew how to scan the document and make it a PDF. There is some silver lining.

This could be generational, I guess. The average age (according to all available information) of the candidates running for Orange County local, statewide and national office is 54. Alice Gordon is 72. While 54 is not by any means old, it could maybe account for why electronic campaign finance reports are not the only option.

Last week, I called the Orange County Board of Elections office and asked to speak with someone about how I could get my hands on the latest campaign finance reports. More than a month had passed since the January 29 deadline for the 2009 Year End Semi-Annual Report, and the reports were still not on the site. In fact, if one is to try to find any 2010 reports, this is what they would find.

It is also important to note that campaign finance reporting rules for Orange County stipulate that every candidate has to submit a report within 10 calendar days of the first financial activity or within 10 days of filing for office, as well as filing on several different deadlines. Meaning, the OC BOE should have many reports already in hand. Oh, and candidate filing had already ended.

What I learned from the OC BOE is that if I wanted to see these reports, I would have to drive to the Hillsborough office and rifle through the hand-written financial reports myself. Yep, again, the OC BOE is completely old school. Sure, there are some reports available from last year. However, that does not mean much if it’s not readily available during an election. This is especially true since the only people we have records on that are running this year are Barry Jacobs and Alice Gordon. Oh, and it is important to point out that Alice is running unopposed.

Also, compiling the information that IS available is already terribly time-consuming and difficult. This can be attributed to the different levels of handwriting legibility as well as having to make your own spreadsheet from scratch.

This is a stark contrast to the availability of campaign finances for national congressional offices. Sites like Open Secrets (which is completely free) and CQMoneyline (which requires subscription) are among some of the sites that offer a ton of great information. This information is, in my opinion, the most important information that one could have about candidates.

Well, I called back a week later to set up an appointment for my trek to Hillsborough. I was politely told that there would be nothing to rifle through. Hmmm. Well, apparently no one besides Alice Gordon and Barry Jacobs has filed for this election season. This leads me to the assessment that no one has any money to file. (I hope)

So now I have to wait until after April 26—the next filing date. I say “after” because I have to wait until someone scans them and posts them online.

I am thinking it is time to update the technology at the OC BOE and make electronic campaign finance reports the ONLY option. There should also be rules about the time that they should be posted online after being electronically submitted. And as far as the argument that is unfair to have 72-year-old Alice Gordon fill out an electronic form? If you make it her only option, she will have no choice but to find a way to get it done, and I am betting she will. If Alice could do it, they should all.



sounds like a very good goal to strive for.  Electronic filing sounds like a great idea.  Thanks for doing this write up.  I hope someone listens.  On the other hand I've heard that the filing requirements can be rather arduous to learn even if you have attended the required financial training seminars.  I wonder if a move towards simplification and electronic filing could be done simultaneously to make the process easier to understand and easier to access?


Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.