Friday, January 14, 2011

State Board of Elections Says Computer Fix Is On The Way

Just last month, it was legal for contributors to give unlimited sums of money, and candidates and interest groups had weeks before they had to report these donations to the public. The new campaign finance law, which took effect January 1, made a number of changes to the Election Code, bringing limits on donations and year-round, near-real time reporting of large donations.

Beginning this year, political committees will disclose their finances on a quarterly basis. Going forward, these "D2" reports will be filed in April, July, October, and January.

Another change, this one less significant, is that these D2 reports will be filed with the State Board of Elections by the 15th day of the month. On January 20th, political committees will file the last of the six-month reports they've been filing for over a decade.

A final change requires groups to report large donations within five days of receipt. In the weeks before an election, committees that are involved in the election will have two days to report these large donations. In the past, these so-called A-1 reports were only in the 30 days before an election. Now, all committees will have to report large donations year round, giving the public a better, more timely view of the flow of money in politics.

The benefits of this last new requirement, however, are delayed by a software glitch. A problem in the State Board of Elections (SBE) website is forcing candidates to file A1's on paper, instead of electronically. The SBE assures us that they will have the problem fixed soon, and that committees that filed on paper will then have to re-file electronically. But in the meantime, it's been harder for the public to track large donations.

Update: As of midday on the 14th, the glitch was repaired and the SBE website was taking A1s electronically. Staff at the Board is now reminding committees that filed A1s on paper to re-file electronically.

Illinois has long been a nationally-recognized leader in campaign finance disclosure. With these changes, we take another giant step forward.

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