nationwide assessment of state campaign finance disclosure has found that 33 states received passing grades, while 17
states do not have satisfactory campaign finance disclosure
programs and failed the assessment.
State Disclosure is a study by the Campaign Disclosure
Project – a collaboration of the California Voter
Foundation, the Center for Governmental Studies and the
UCLA School of Law – and is funded by the Pew Charitable
Trusts. The study is the first comprehensive, comparative
study of candidate campaign finance disclosure laws and
practices in the 50 states. While there are signs of
progress and some innovative practices throughout the country,
the study found that a vast majority of the states still have
significant room to improve campaign finance disclosure programs
for political candidates.
states received passing grades in the study, which evaluated
four specific areas of campaign finance disclosure:
state campaign disclosure laws; electronic
accessibility of campaign finance information; and the
usability of state disclosure web sites. Of the passing states,
only two received grades in the A or B range. The top-ranked
state, Washington, received an A- and the second-ranked state,
Illinois, received a B. Rounding out the top ten were Massachusetts,
Ohio, Texas, Hawaii, Florida, New Jersey, California and
Michigan, all of which received grades in the C range. Seventeen
states received F grades.
Significant findings include:
- 29 states require disclosure of a contributor's occupation
- 35 states require late
- 49 states require a description of an expenditure.
- 40 states require independent
expenditures to be reported.
- 20 states have some type of mandatory requirement for
electronic filing of campaign finance reports.
- Of the 20, twelve states require electronic filing
by candidates for both statewide and legislative office,
and eight require electronic filing for statewide candidates
- 16 states allow voluntary electronic filing by candidates
for statewide and legislative office.
- 14 states have no electronic filing program.
- 47 states post campaign finance data on their web sites.
states – Montana, South Carolina and Wyoming –
have no campaign finance data available on their
states provide searchable databases of contributions
- 17 states provide searchable databases of expenditures
states provide some information about campaign finance
restrictions and disclosure reporting requirements online.
state disclosure agencies, in Arkansas and Delaware,
provide no explanatory information about campaign finance laws
on their web sites.
findings of the study show that many changes could be made
to improve state disclosure programs in each of the categories
that were researched. States that performed well in one
or two of the categories often performed very poorly in the other
categories, and as a result did not receive good grades. In
particular, significant progress can be made in the areas of
accessibility to campaign finance information and web site usability. Half
of the states failed in both data accessibility and web
site usability and no state received an A in usability.
were based on criteria created by the Project partners,
the Project's Advisory Board and a panel of expert judges,
who also assisted with the grading process. The Project set
a high, but not impossible, standard for state campaign finance
disclosure programs. The grades were based on a state's
performance in the area of candidate disclosure only; lobbying,
conflict of interest, ballot measure and party organization
disclosure were not considered.
Assessments of each state were based on legal research, web
site visits and research, web site testing by outside evaluators
and responses from state disclosure agency staff and activists
working on campaign financing at the state level.