CAMPAIGN CASH ON COMPUTER

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To find out which Santa put the goodies in your state rep’s stocking, you have to trundle 140 miles to Albany’s Board of Elections where a clerk will usher you into an airless room–and leave you to decipher miles of hand-scrawled campaign finance disclosure forms.

This daunting process may soon change, however. The nonprofit good-government group Citizen Action is trying to do what the state legislature has thus far refused to do–computerize lists of the tens of thousands of contributions made to legislative candidates.

For the time being, CA only has a $15,000 Ford Foundation grant that will allow them to computerize state senate contributors. The foundation has also allocated $225,000 to fund similar efforts in 15 other states.

“The point here is to start getting that information out,” says executive director Richard Kirsch. “Sometime soon I hope we can add the assembly filings, too.”

In recent sessions, legislation authorizing state elections board computerization have failed. Computerized filings by federal legislators and City Councilmembers is currently available at the Campaign Finance Board in Manhattan.

The New York filings will be available to reporters, candidates and regular citizens by late spring, Kirsch says.