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  • Daniel G. Newman

California Secretary of State Launches 'Power Search'


September 3, 2015 - In partnership with the California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, MapLight, a 501(c)(3), nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that tracks money in politics, is pleased to announce the launch of a new open source campaign finance search tool that will greatly increase political transparency in California.

"Both the public and the press should have quick and easy access to campaign finance information," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. "Power Search is the first step in modernizing and upgrading Cal-Access."

Power Search allows citizens and journalists to swiftly and easily review the source, recipient and amount of state-level campaign contributions from 2001 to the present. The data can then be filtered by recipient, date, amount, location, and other fields, or downloaded into a spreadsheet for additional analysis.

"With the influence of campaign money far too pervasive in our government, we commend Secretary Padilla for his visionary approach to increasing political transparency in California," said Daniel G. Newman, President and Co-Founder of MapLight. "It's now easier than ever for the public to get a clear picture of the money behind California elections."

In contrast to the lengthy, traditional government technology procurement process, MapLight developed Power Search in just six months at a cost of $100,000.

"Power Search open source software sets a standard for campaign finance search engines across the country," said Newman. "We hope that other states and cities follow Secretary Padilla's lead to modernize public access to public data, to support a more responsive democracy."

The project's development was funded with a grant from The James Irvine Foundation with the goal of providing Californians with access to information critical to democracy.

"The James Irvine Foundation is proud to support innovations like this to improve transparency in California," said Don Howard, The Irvine Foundation President and CEO. "The CAL-ACCESS Power Search tool is a great first step to making vital information about money in politics more accessible to Californians."

Open source code for Power Search can be found on the Secretary of State's website under Frequently Asked Questions or on GitHub.

Below are examples of basic quick search functions in Power Search.

Candidate Contributions Search A simple one-click search in the candidate field for contributions made to Governor Brown shows that he has raised a total of $78 million for his various campaign committees since 2001. The search results provide itemized contribution records that can be sorted or downloaded for further analysis.

Ballot Measure Contributions Search A simple one-click search for contributions to the referendum to overturn a ban on single-use plastic bags that will appear on the 2016 general election ballot shows that just over $600,000 has been raised in support and opposition to the measure.

Organization or Individual Contributor Search By typing the name of an organization or individual into the contributor field, such as Chevron, the Power Search shows that Chevron and its employees have given $65 million in contributions to candidates, ballot measures and other recipient committees since 2001.

To experience Power Search firsthand, simply go to the Secretary of State's website and click on Power Search.


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