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M i n n e s o t 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 Minnesota

Minnesota barely received a passing grade, showing that its campaign finance disclosure program has significant room for improvement. Despite having one of the strongest campaign finance disclosure laws in the country, Minnesota received failing grades in Electronic Filing, Disclosure Content Accessibility and web site usability.

Minnesota law requires candidates to file an annual statement and one statement before each election. Details, including a contributor's occupation and employer, must be disclosed for contributions of $100 or more. Last-minute contributions must be disclosed prior to an election. In addition, details about expenditures, including subvendor information, must be reported for expenditures of $100 or more. Independent expenditures are required to be disclosed, but last-minute independent expenditures do not have to be reported before an election. Although there is adequate funding, training and free software for electronic filing, the fact that electronic filing is voluntary for both statewide and legislative candidates brings down Minnesota's grade in this category.

Minnesota has significant room for improvement in its efforts to make campaign finance data accessible to the public. Detailed information about contributions over $100 is available on Minnesota's web site. While the state says this information is available in a searchable database of contributions, the system does not allow a search at all. Instead, a site visitor must browse through a list of every individual contributor in the system and choose one name in order to view that individual's campaign contributions. Even if a site user can get through this cumbersome process and locate an individual contributor, the only information available is the amount and date of the contribution, and the name of the candidate to whom the contribution was made – there is no other detail or identifying information, such as address or city, employer or occupation, for the contributor. It is not possible to sort or download the data. In addition, complete campaign finance reports are not available for browsing on the site.

The contextual usability of the site could also be significantly improved. There is some useful information on the site, including a good explanation of campaign finance laws in Minnesota, lists of recent changes to the law, an “Informal Chronology of Campaign Finance Legislation”, and information about current administrative rules and opinions. The site also provides good summary data to give the public an overview of campaign financing in the state for the years 1998 - 2002. However, the terminology on the site is not very clear. In addition, amended data is not available on the site, and it may be difficult for the state to provide it without also adding an interface for browsing self-contained electronic reports (as opposed to the current system of searching for bits and pieces of data). The site could also provide instructions for how to use it and could be more accessible to people with slow computers.

Disclosure Agency: Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board
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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