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Next step in campaign finance reform could be web site overhaul

When Florida lawmakers raised campaign contribution limits last year, they said the goal was to make the money in politics more transparent. There was one problem: the state’s campaign finance web site.

The 9-year-old system is difficult and cumbersome and it has no provision for tracking the explosion in soft money checks to the candidates and issues the money is intended to target. Campaign finance watchdogs, the National Institute on Money in State Politics, gave the state a D grade for that oversight in a report last year.

Lawmakers proudly touted the reforms they passed last year: raising the minimum contribution limits for legislative campaigns from $500 to $1,000 and to $3,000 for statewide candidates, and increasing the frequency of reporting, making the web site data more current. But the law did nothing to make the independent expenditures, or soft money, easier to track or to make the web site more user-friendly.

Now there is new momentum to address that issue. The new law included a little-noticed requirement that the state submit a proposal for replacing Florida’s outdated web site with a statewide electronic filing system for all state and local campaign finance data.

In a December report to House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, the Division of Elections recommended the state require all state and local candidates to submit their campaign finance information to a statewide web site, and offered two pricetags and timelines to do it: The state could use existing staff and spend three years and $534,000 or hire a private contractor and, according to estimates from 10 companies, the cost would be $1 million and time frames would range from three to 18 months. Story here.   Download SEFS Final Proposal_11272013 Full Version

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