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C a l i f o r n i a


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Campaign Disclosure Law
Electronic Filing Program
Disclosure Content Accessibility
Online Contextual & Technical Usability

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The State of Disclosure in California

California's campaign finance disclosure program is better than those in a majority of the other states. It has one of the strongest campaign finance disclosure laws in the nation, but weaknesses on its disclosure web site, present at the time research was conducted, brought down its grade and rank.

California law requires candidates to file two or more reports in non-election years and two reports before an election. Candidates must disclose detailed information about contributors who give $100 or more, including occupations and employers. Both donors and candidates must report last-minute contributions prior to an election. Candidates must file detailed expenditure information for payments of $100 or more, and must report how their subvendors spent payments of $500 or more. Independent expenditures must be reported and last-minute independent expenditures of $1,000 or more must be reported within 24 hours. All statewide and legislative candidates who reach a $50,000 threshold are required to file electronically.

Campaign finance information is available on California's web site for all candidates who file electronically and it can be browsed, sorted and downloaded. However, at the time of the Project's research, California did not have searchable databases of contributions or expenditures on its site and it was only possible to browse reports for one candidate at a time. In July 2003, the Secretary of State launched searchable databases of contributions and expenditures on its web site. California will be given credit for the databases in the next round of disclosure grades.

The state could make improvements to the usability of its web site. From 1991 to 1998, the state provided very good analyses of campaign financing trends in elections, but publication of these reports ended after 1998. Reinstating the campaign financing summary reports and posting them online could improve the site. In addition, campaign finance data and contextual information cannot be found in the same place online. Currently, campaign finance data can be found on the Secretary of State's site, while most contextual information – including explanations of the state's campaign finance restrictions and the text of the law – is on the Fair Political Practices Commission's site. Despite some of the weaknesses on its disclosure web site, California did well in the usability testing. The testers were able to find the disclosure web site within five minutes and four out of six testers were able to find campaign finance information for which they were looking.

Disclosure Agency: Secretary of State
Disclosure Web Site:

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This page was first published on September 17, 2003
| Last updated on September 17, 2003
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