|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 14, 1998
California voters have a new tool to help them "follow the money" behind this year's campaigns, thanks to an Internet database of campaign contributions built by Compaq's Network Systems Lab in Palo Alto in partnership with the non-profit California Voter Foundation. The database can be accessed on the Internet at:
"There's no better way for voters to make informed choices than to find out who's funding a candidate or measure," said Kim Alexander, President of the California Voter Foundation (CVF), noting that about $300 million is raised and spent in a typical California election year. "Our new database allows voters and reporters to easily discover who's behind the TV commercials that are now flooding California airwaves. For the first time in history, the public has convenient access to campaign contribution data when it's needed most -- before Election Day."
Both gubernatorial candidates Gray Davis and Dan Lungren's contributions are included in the database, as well as contributions from both sides of Proposition 5, the Indian gaming initiative, and Proposition 10, the early child care/tobacco tax initiative. The database currently features contributions for 12 of the 16 major-party statewide candidates, and most of the major ballot measure committees.
The campaign contribution database was made possible by the California Legislature's Online Disclosure Act passed in 1997, which requires all statewide candidates and ballot measure campaigns to file their disclosure reports on computer disk as well as paper during the 1998 General Election campaign season. The diskette filing requirement precedes a mandatory electronic filing program to be implemented for the 2000 election cycle. In anticipation of the mandatory program, Secretary of State Bill Jones launched a voluntary electronic filing program, and has also posted campaign finance data for several participating candidates on the Secretary of Stateâs web site.
Campaigns that are not participating in the electronic filing project are required by law to file their disclosure reports on disk with the Secretary of State in either an ASCII or PDF format. CVF contacted each statewide campaign to request they file in the text-based ASCII format so that their records could be included in the database.
A team of Compaq research engineers, led by Drs. Glenn Trewitt and David Jefferson, built the searchable database by combining the Secretary of State's records with those filed on diskette. Jefferson, who also serves as CVF's board chairman, commended Dr. Trewitt for his tremendous efforts. "This was an enormously challenging project, and was made possible thanks in large part to the hard work and dedication of Glenn Trewitt," Jefferson said, noting that his coworker succeeded in converting several PDF files, including Dan Lungren's, into an ASCII format so that the records could be included in the database. (PDF files that could not be converted are also being published online in a PDF format.)
Trewitt and Jefferson designed the database to allow the public to browse, search and sort the contribution records of statewide campaigns in a variety of ways -- by name of contributor, amount, date, occupation, employer, city or state. A new feature will soon be added that will allow visitors to download records as well. The 1998 California Campaign Contribution Database is the second of its kind built by Jefferson, Trewitt and Alexander, who teamed up in 1995 to construct the world's first real-time Internet campaign finance database for that year's San Francisco election.
"Compaq is performing an outstanding public service for the people of California," Alexander said, noting that the company is donating staff time and a high-speed server to the project. "Compaq sets a great example of what the private sector can do to develop the Internet into a powerful tool for civic participation."
The database currently includes the first round of contributions filed for the November General Election, received between July 1 and September 30, 1998, and will be updated several times during the election season. Late contribution reports, which disclose contributions of $1,000 or more received in the final two weeks and must be filed within 24 hours of receipt, will also be included in the contributions database once the reporting period begins on October 19. In addition, CVF will soon publish updated summary data and Top Ten contributor lists for all statewide campaigns in its California Online Voter Guide.
"Our new 1998 California Campaign Contribution Database places California in the lead among states moving to publish campaign finance data on the Internet and sheds some much-needed 'digital sunlight' on the campaign process," said Jefferson. "No longer must voters sift through piles of paper disclosure reports in order to follow the money. Thanks to Compaq and the California Voter Foundation, campaign contributions are now just a mouse click away."
A summary of campaigns whose data is included in the database is available.