FROM:   Kim Alexander, CVF President
DATE:   July 16, 1999
RE:   Presidential candidates, FEC shed digital sunlight

I'm happy to report that more than half of the major presidential candidates' latest disclosure reports are available on the Internet! Elizabeth Dole, Dan Quayle, Gary Bauer and John McCain have joined Bill Bradley and Al Gore in filing their reports electronically with the Federal Election Commission, which is now a requirement of any candidate who accepts federal matching funds in the presidential election.

Yesterday was the filing deadline for the Second Quarter 1999 reporting period, covering contributions received and expenditures made between April 1 - June 30, 1999. Today, these candidates' reports, including all their itemized contributions and expenditures, are available online via the FEC ( The specific address for the disclosure reports is:

Instant Internet disclosure of campaign financing is the best way to provide the public with meaningful, timely and comprehensive access to these records. The California Voter Foundation congratulates all the presidential candidates who are helping to shed "digital sunlight" in the upcoming presidential election, as well as the FEC for establishing such
a great program!

Unfortunately, not all the presidential candidates are filing their reports electronically. Presidential candidates George W. Bush, Steve Forbes, Lamar Alexander, Pat Buchanan, and Bob Smith are so far opting out of the FEC's electronic filing program. If Alexander, Buchanan or Smith choose to accept public matching funds, they will be required to file electronically, thanks to a new regulation adopted by the FEC. However, Bush and Forbes have both announced they will not accept federal matching funds, which, if accepted, requires presidential candidates to abide by a spending limit. Hopefully these remaining five candidates will file electronically with the FEC for the next reporting period, regardless of whether they are required to or not.

Bush's failure to file electronically came as a surprise to many, since a news release he issued yesterday stated that his reports would be available on the FEC's web site. His news release is available at:

It's worth noting that another Bush statement issued yesterday about his decision to decline public matching funds noted that he is an advocate of other campaign finance reforms, including "instant disclosure of contributions received". This statement is available online at:

You will find Bush's first quarter 1999 reports at the FEC web site, along with the rest of the candidates, because the FEC data-enters disclosure reports, in addition to offering electronic filing. But the FEC's data entry process can take up to thirty days, so one can assume that yesterday's presidential filings that came in on paper will not be online at the FEC until early August. The lag time involved with data-entry, plus the expense and potential for errors is the reason why advocates for better public disclosure support electronic filing. By filing over the Internet or on disk, and in a digital format rather than paper, it's possible for disclosure agencies like the FEC to make these important public records immediately available to the public via the Internet.

While Bush did publish his latest disclosure report on his own web site, there is no guarantee that the data appearing on his web site is the same as the records he filed on paper with the FEC. In addition, the format this data is available in is PDF, and Bush's report is so voluminous that his file of individual contributors is four megabytes and contains 1171 pages of contribution records that are difficult to read and impossible to sort in any meaningful way.

It appears that the Bush campaign originally put these files up yesterday morning in a text-based, comma-delimited format. Fortunately, the good people at the Center for Responsive Politics were able to download those text-based records before they were substituted with PDF files. CRP expects to have a database of Bush's contributions, along with all the other Presidential candidates who filed electronically, available on their web site by the end of the day, at

You can also find excellent summary records of all the presidential candidates' contributions and expenditures at the CRP web site, and coming soon will be geographic analysis of contributions and reviews on the quality of each candidate's disclosure reports.

I spoke with FEC staffer Bob Biersack today, who noted that the instant Internet disclosure of the latest filings is resulting in lots of interesting news stories, including some on how candidates are spending their money, which, in previous years, have been rarely if ever done because there has been no data-entry of campaign expenditures. "This is something that could not have been done in anywhere near this time frame in years past," Bob told me. "I think this represents an excellent example of the value of both electronic filing and the Internet in general. A thousand flowers did bloom over the course of the day (and night) yesterday and there is at least the opportunity for a more informed electorate as a result."

I couldn't have said it better myself :).

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This page was first published on July 16, 1999 | Last updated on July 16, 1999
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