About Late Contribution Watch

About Late Contribution Watch: Late Contribution Watch is a service provided by the California Voter Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes the use of new technologies to help shape a more informed and engaged electorate. Through this project, CVF hopes to improve the voting public's understanding of who's financing candidates and measures while at the same time demonstrating the benefits of online access to political disclosure records.

Background: California's political disclosure laws require that all contributions of $1,000 or more made or received by state candidates and ballot measure committees in the 16 days prior to an election be reported to the Secretary of State within 24 hours. These reports are called late contribution reports. Historically, some of the largest contributions made in California campaigns come in at the last minute. For example, in 1994, 25 percent of all the money raised in the General Election cycle was received during the late contribution reporting period.

How Late Contribution Watch Will Work: Each day until the election, beginning October 22, 1996, CVF's research team (Brian Tanner and Andrea Cook) will visit the Secretary of State's Political Reform Division (where the reports are filed), and review the late contribution reports filed in the public binders from the day before. Reports showing contributions made or received in amounts of $10,000 or more will be data-entered into a laptop and compiled into a daily summary report. These daily summaries will then be emailed to California news media across the state each day, as well as to anyone else who would like to receive them. In addition, the reports will be posted on CVF's California Online Voter Guide, available through CVF's homepage at:


The research team will record the name of the contributor, recipient, amount of the contribution, and the ballot measure or electoral district impacted by the contribution. The committee ID numbers will also be recorded, so that journalists who want to do follow-up research will be able to quickly identify the committees in question. This year, the Secretary of State is assigning a number to each late contribution report, which will also be included in CVF's summaries.

Independent Expenditures: CVF is also be monitoring the late independent expenditure reports. Independent expenditures are typically advertising expenses, such as broadcast ads or mass mailings, that are made in support of or in opposition to a candidate or ballot measure, but are made independently from the committee or candidate that benefits from the expenditure. California's disclosure laws require that independent expenditures of $1,000 or more made in the 16 days prior to an election must be disclosed with the Secretary of State within 24 hours.

A Note About the Methodology: Both the donor and the recipient are required to file late contribution reports. CVF will be tracking both types of records. Please be sure not to double-count contributions that may be represented on both the "Late Contributions Made" and the "Late Contributions Received" lists.

CVF has also learned that the Fair Political Practices Commission designated the Alliance to Revitalize California, which is a leading opponent of Proposition 211, as a general purpose committee, rather than a "primarily formed" committee, as most ballot measure committees are designated. Because the Alliance to Revitalize California is designated as a general purpose committee, it does not have to file reports of late contributions it receives, nor do contributors have to file reports of late contributions made to this committee. This committee is not required to disclose contributions received in the late reporting period until it files its semi-annual statement, due on January 31, 1997. Due to this situation, the Late Contribution Watch may not feature late reports from the Alliance to Revitalize California, depending on whether or not the committee chooses to voluntarily disclose its late money.

Late Contribution Watch is a feature of the California Voter Foundation's Fall '96 California Online Voter Guide, available through CVF's homepage at http://www.calvoter.org. CVF is grateful to several California-based news organizations, such as KQED Radio, the Sacramento Bee, the California Journal, the Contra Costa Times, the San Jose Mercury News, KXTV News 10, Mother Jones/MoJo Wire and the Stockton Record for their financial support for Late Contribution Watch. Please contact Kim Alexander to find out how you or your news organization can help support this project.


Late Contribution Watch is a feature of the
California Online Voter Guide, a project of the
California Voter Foundation.

First published 10/22/96. Last updated 10/26/96