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Orange County

Online List of Political Donors Sought

Supervisor Campbell pushes plan to post campaign finance reports for county offices on the Internet.

November 21, 2003|Jean O. Pasco | Times Staff Writer

Orange County Supervisor Bill Campbell plans to ask his colleagues next week to approve a plan that would put campaign contribution reports from candidates for county office on the Web.

The reports, which already are scanned electronically by the registrar of voters, would be available through links on the county's Web page at www.oc.ca.gov. The affected races would be supervisor, assessor, auditor-controller, clerk-recorder, district attorney, public administrator, sheriff-coroner and treasurer-tax collector.

The task would be easily accomplished, interim Registrar Steve Rodermund said, but there is a hitch: A state privacy law forbids Internet posting of home addresses and phone numbers of government officers, including local elected officials, gubernatorial appointees, court commissioners, public defenders and police officers. Candidate campaign reports, however, require each contributor to be listed by name, address and occupation.

To comply with the law, contributor information for those affected would have to be blacked out, Rodermund said.

"The problem is, how do you assure that you catch every address?" he said. "All you need to do is miss some police officer or [sheriff's deputy]."

Addresses aren't edited from campaign reports scanned and available over the Internet for Los Angeles and Los Angeles County because they are considered public documents, officials there said Thursday.

Spokeswomen for the Los Angeles County registrar's office and Los Angeles City Ethics Commission said they were unaware of the Internet-posting ban cited by Rodermund, but would research it.

The law lists violations as a misdemeanor, although they could be felonies if a person's disclosed information leads to harm to them or their families.

Campbell said he was urged to propose electronic disclosure by longtime government activist Shirley L. Grindle of Orange. His proposal asks County Counsel Benjamin de Mayo to recommend how best to comply with the privacy law.

Full disclosure to the voters is the important thing for them to find out who is contributing to whose campaign," Campbell said. "Obviously, with today's technology, the easiest way to do that is over the Internet." Grindle said she encouraged Campbell after the board voted in April to raise the contribution limit for county candidates. A $1,000 limit set in 1992 had not been adjusted for inflation; the new amount is $1,400 -- a 40% increase.

However, the county should eventually move toward electronic filing, which is required for state candidates, she said.

State law already requires home addresses and phone numbers to be removed from electronic filings -- a task easily accomplished with proper software, officials said.

"I think We should go the extra distance now," said political consultant David Kidd of Laguna Beach. The timeliness of electronic information would be lost if it takes too long to scan the reports, he said.

San Francisco, Sacramento, Seattle and New York also require full electronic filing of campaign contribution reports. Long Beach may join the list soon.

"It's a lot better than having [reports] in dusty filing cabinets," said Robert Stern, author of the state's campaign finance law and president of the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles.

Electronic filing will come for Orange County, Campbell predicted. But new software and an effort already underway to convert to electronic voting systems for the March election must come first, he said.

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