February 13, 2014

Campaign Finance Disclosure

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CAPITOL WATCH
Feb. 13: Campaign Finance Disclosure
State Capitol - Jan 2014 - 2

Gov. Mary Fallin is proposing an injection of funds to help the Oklahoma Ethics Commission create a new campaign finance disclosure system, but the commissioner doesn’t know if the amount will be enough.

Fallin proposed spending $780,000 in fiscal 2015 to fix or replace the commission’s outdated software, which allows for campaign contributions and expenditures, as well as candidate information, to be filed by candidates and viewed by the public.

But what the commission ultimately receives won’t be known until legislators approve the budget in May.

Early estimates to replace the system were between $3 and $6 million, Commissioner Lee Slater said. Since then, officials have learned they can get new software cheaper, but are not yet sure if Fallin’s proposed allocation would cover the cost, he said.

Slater said the system is so bad that it needs to be scrapped, which would cost the same as fixing the bugs in the current software.

“Our current software is a mess,” Slater said. “It’s not reliable.”

Among the issues cited by Slater:

• Lawmakers sometimes can’t see their previous campaign fundraising and expenditure reports.
• Software won’t always let candidates enter information into forms.
• Contribution tallies are frequently incorrect.
• Filed reports don’t always appear.

Some other states offer better campaign disclosure systems. Wyoming, for example, abandoned its paper filing system in 2010 and bought user-friendly electronic filing software for $2.5 million.

The Ethics Commission received $50,000 in 2008 to buy Federal Election Commission software, but the amount was not enough for an upgrade and ended up being used for employee salaries.

Slater said the commission is pricing new software and hopes to have an estimated cost before the end of the legislative session. He added that unlike in 2008, money won’t be diverted for salaries.

-Carmen Forman