Grading State Disclosure 2003 Logo Graphic

T e x a s


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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 Texas

Texas' campaign disclosure program did very well in the study, ranking among the top five states in the nation. Texas received an A- in the area of Disclosure Content Accessibility, but its D+ in web site usability and overall C+ grade is an indication that even top-ranked states have room to improve.

The state's campaign disclosure law is above average. Candidates must file two pre-election reports, the last due eight days before the election, plus two reports in non-election years. Details about contributors who give more than $50 must be reported, but occupation and employer information is required only for judicial campaigns. Last-minute contributions of $1,000 or more to a statewide or state senate candidate ($200 or more for a state representative) must be disclosed within 48 hours of being made. Expenditures of over $50 must be reported, but subvendor information does not have to be disclosed. Independent expenditures and last-minute independent expenditures must be reported at varying thresholds. Texas has mandatory electronic filing for candidates who reach a threshold of $20,000, unless the filer states that his or her committee does not use a computer for campaign data. The state does provide filers with free software and web-based filing, and offers training for the system as well.

Texas does an excellent job of making campaign finance information accessible to the public. The Ethics Commission web site contains at least some data for every candidate; complete reports are there for electronic filers, summary data only is posted for paper filers. The site features searchable databases of both contributions and expenditures with search results that can be sorted and downloaded, plus self-contained filings for downloading or browsing online. To raise its A- accessibility grade to an A, the state could add detailed data for paper filers to its site and increase the speed with which campaign finance reports are posted to the disclosure web site. Electronic filings are generally available within two days of the filing deadline; however, sometimes they are not posted until the reports for all candidates seeking the same office have been submitted, which can delay the availability of reports for weeks.

Texas has good contextual information on its disclosure web site compared to many other states, but could improve in a number of ways. On the positive side, a format for viewing filings allows site visitors to see clearly the whole universe of reports filed by each candidate, and there are also compilations of total amounts raised and spent by each candidate in elections from 1996 to 2002. On the negative side, disclosure reporting periods are not included in the index of each candidate's reports, original filings are not retained in cases where amendments have been filed (they now replace originals online) terminology is not very clear, and web site design could be improved.

Texas' performance in the usability testing was mixed. All testers found the Ethics Commission site from the state homepage within two minutes, but many were not able to retrieve summary data or individual contributor information at all, perhaps due to the confusion of the site having multiple interfaces for searching along with some navigation and terminology problems.


Disclosure Agency: Texas Ethics Commission
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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