MapLight Testifies at California Senate Hearing
MapLight’s President Daniel G. Newman testified today at a California Senate hearing on improving CAL-ACCESS, the state’s software system for campaign finance and lobbying transparency. At the hearing MapLight presented detailed recommendations on how to improve public access to campaign finance and lobbying data.
As part of MapLight’s work to improve transparency for campaign finance, MapLight worked with the two previous secretaries of state, Secretary Alex Padilla and Secretary Debra Bowen, to dramatically improve public access to campaign finance data. In 2015 MapLight and Secretary Padilla launched “Power Search,” a search engine for California campaign finance data, built by MapLight. Prior to Power Search, a citizen who wanted to see how much a particular contributor contributed to California legislators had to download two hundred separate Excel spreadsheets and somehow try to combine them. With Power Search, all this information is available on the Secretary of State’s website with a few clicks of a mouse. For seven years now, Power Search has been the main way that journalists and citizens make use of California campaign finance data.
Why is it important for the public to be able to access campaign finance data? Information about who is supporting our elected representatives is foundational to a healthy democracy. Oversight hearings are public. How lawmakers vote is public information. The money that candidates raise to run for office is public information too. We as citizens need transparency to know who is backing our elected officials as part of holding them accountable in a democracy. Campaign finance information is an essential tool for journalists, nonprofit groups, and grassroots citizens to shine a light on the forces that affect the laws and lawmakers that govern the state.
Campaign finance information on who is backing candidates and ballot measures is also vital for voters to make informed decisions on how to vote. That’s why disclosure of the money contributed to campaigns is the law in every state in the country. MapLight looks forward to continuing our work advising California and other states how to best implement disclosure for campaign finance, lobbying, ethics filings, and other information providing key transparency to the public.