September 17, 2010

Campaign transparency is not that hard

In an attempt to show that more robust campaign disclosure requirements are not burdensome, Secretary of State Ross Miller has announced he will be posting his campaign finance reports online:

In an effort to convince his fellow elected officials that filing campaign contribution and expenditure reports online and before early voting is not too onerous for candidates, Secretary of State Ross Miller said he will do so voluntarily in advance of the Nov. 2 general election.

Miller has submitted a bill draft request for consideration by the 2011 Legislature to move the filing dates of the reports up so the information would be available to residents before they vote. Miller, who sought similar legislation without success in 2009, also wants the reports filed electronically so voters and others can search the information more easily.

Presently, campaign disclosure laws in Nevada don't require timely disclosure. Current law states the reports aren't due until a week before the general election. By that time, early voting has been going on for 10 days. Plus, if a candidate mails in his or her reports there is a chance the reports won't even get posted online until only a day or two before the election. The reports themselves are unwieldy, unsearchable and often written in the candidate's inscrutable handwriting. It would be difficult to design a less transparent system of campaign disclosure.

This might be changing however, as 63 out of the 65 candidates who responded to TransparentNevada's transparency survey expressed support for making campaign finance data easily searchable. Despite Ross Miller's announcement, he is not one of them.

But still, citizens who care about transparency should commend Miller's actions and hope other candidates will do the same.