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Grading State Disclosure Criteria

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Grading State Disclosure Criteria

Grading Categories

I. Campaign Disclosure Laws - 40%
II. Electronic Filing Programs - 10%
III. Disclosure Content Accessibility - 25 %
IV. Online Contextual & Technical Usability - 25%

Grading Categories Criteria
I. Campaign Disclosure Laws - 120 points/40%

Meaningful campaign disclosure requires comprehensive campaign disclosure laws. The Campaign Disclosure Project has identified key disclosure requirements that are essential to public campaign disclosure:

1. Disclosure Content (84 points)

1.1 Contribution record (26 points)
1.1.1 Date (5 points)
1.1.2 Contributor name and address (5 points)
1.1.3 Contributor occupation (5 points)
1.1.4 Contributor employer (5 points)
1.1.5 Contributor ID number (if applicable) (3 points)
1.1.6 Cumulative amount (for the year or election) (3 points)

1.2 Type of Contribution (21 points)
1.2.1 Loan - date made (3 points)
1.2.2 Interest rate of loan (2 points)
1.2.3 Loan repayments (due date) (2 points)
1.2.4 Guarantors (2 points)
1.2.5 In-kind contribution disclosed (9 points)
1.2.6 Total for non-itemized contributions (3 points)

1.3 Expenditure information (22 points)
1.3.1 Vendor name (5 points)
1.3.2 Subvendor information (3 points)
1.3.3 Description and/or expenditure codes (6 points)
1.3.4 Date (4 points)
1.3.5 Accrued expenditures (4 points)

1.4 Independent expenditures (15 points)
1.4.1 Are they reported? (6 points)
1.4.2 Are last-minute independent expenditures reported? (3 points)
1.4.3 Does report include who benefits? (3 points)
1.4.4 Does report include cumulative amount? (3 points)

2. Enforcement (15 points)

2.1 Does the state conduct mandatory reviews and/or field audits? (6 points)
2.2 Enforcement mechanism: criminal, civil, or both? (6 points) (3 points for either, 6 for both)
2.3 Is there a penalty for late filings? (3 points)

3. Filing Schedule (21 points)

3.1 Pre-election reporting (9 points) (points awarded will depend on the number of reports required before an election: 1 report = 3; 2 reports = 6; more than 2 = 9)
3.2 Late contribution reporting (6 points)
3.3 Non-election year filing (6 points) (points awarded will depend on the number of reports required during non-election years: 2 or more reports = 6; one report = 4; no reporting = 0)

II. Electronic Filing Programs - 30 points/10%

Electronic filing is key to timely online disclosure. If campaigns send disclosure data reports to state agencies in a digital format in the first place, it is feasible to place the data immediately on the Internet in ways that make it easy to search, browse or download. State electronic filing programs are assessed and evaluated according to the following criteria:

1. Electronic Filing Program (30 points)

1.1 Does the state have an electronic filing program? (3 points)
1.2 Is electronic filing mandatory for statewide candidates? (10 points) (if mandate covers all statewide candidates and the threshold is reasonable = 10 points; voluntary program = 2 points)
1.3 Is electronic filing mandatory for legislative candidates (8 points) (If mandate covers all legislative candidates and the threshold is reasonable = 8 points; voluntary program = 1 point)
1.4 Is there adequate funding for an electronic filing program? (3 points)
1.5 Does the state provide training and/or technical assistance to filers? (3 points)
1.6 Is filing software and/or web-based filing available? Is it free? Does the state have a standard filing format? (3 points)

III. Disclosure Content Accessibility - 75 points / 25%

In this category, the Campaign Disclosure Project looks at the degree to which content included in disclosure reports is accessible to the public.

1. Accessibility to Disclosure Records on Paper (12 points)

1.1 What is the procedure the state uses to facilitate public access to paper disclosure reports? Can the public obtain them in more than one place? How long does it take for the state to respond to a request? (9 points)
1.2 How much do the paper records cost? (3 points) ($.10 or less per page = 3 points; $.11-$.15 = 2 points; $.16-$.25 cents = 1 point; more than $.25 = 0 points)

2. Scope of Disclosure Records on the Internet (18 points)

2.1 Is the state publishing campaign finance data on the Internet? (3 points)
2.2 How quickly are the data made available on the Internet? How up to date is the information online? Is it instantly available as soon as it is reported? Is it available within 24 or 48 hours? Is it available within a week? Does it take longer than a week? (4 points)
2.3 What is the scope of the data online? Is data available for all disclosed reports, or just some? (6 points) (If all reports are online via electronic filing or data entry = 6 points; mix of electronically-filed data and scanned reports = 3-5 points; all reports online in PDF = 2 points; some reports online in PDF = 1 point).
2.4 Does the site feature itemized contribution and expenditure data? (5 points)

3. Accessibility to Disclosure Records on the Internet (42 points)

3.1 Does the site offer a searchable database of itemized campaign contributions? (20 points) (if can search within one report of one candidate = 2 points: or if can search within all reports of one candidate = 4 points; or if can search across all filers = 10 points) (In addition, for the following fields: donor, amount, date, zip code, and employer - one point per searchable field for single candidate search of all reports; 2 points per searchable field for all filer search.) (Maximum points for searchable databases will be 2, 9 or 20 depending on scope of search capabilities.)
3.2 Does the site offer a searchable database of itemized campaign expenditures? (10 points) (if can search within one report of one candidate = 1 point; or if can search within all reports of one candidate = 2 points; or if can search across all filers = 5 points) (In addition, for the following fields: description/code = 2 points; vendor name = 1 point; amount = 1 point; date = 1 point; field search points will be awarded only if can search by all candidate's reports or across all filers; the same number of search field points will be awarded in either case). (Maximum points for searchable databases will be 1, 7 or 10 depending on scope.)
3.3 Can you filter or limit the search? (i.e. ability to limit search to just one election cycle or one candidate) (1 point)
3.4 Are there any types of "smart search" features such as "name sounds like" or "name contains"? (1 point - 0 points for "hidden" smart search capabilities)
3.5 Can the data be sorted online? (3 points)
3.6 Can data be downloaded for sorting and analyzing offline? (3 points)
3.7 Can you browse an index of a particular candidate's reports? (2 points)
3.8 Can you browse itemized transactions within a report? (2 points)

4. Accessibility to Disclosure Records in Other Formats (3 points)

4.1 Are disclosure records accessible in other formats, such as on a CD? How much does it cost? Is it available from the state or an outside vendor? (3 points)

IV. Online Contextual & Technical Usability - 75 points/25%

Each state is assessed on the usability of the state's campaign disclosure web site. Usability is divided into two categories: contextual and technical.

1. Contextual Usability (38 points)

Contextual usability means whether the web site provides essential background information that helps the public understand the state's campaign finance and disclosure laws and monitor campaign activities. When evaluating sites for contextual usability, the following questions will be answered:

1.1 How easy is it to find the disclosure agency's contact information? (2 points) (if it's on front page or featured on front page = 2 points; difficult to locate = 1 or no points; not available = 0 points)
1.2 Does the site provide information, such as summary campaign data and historical figures to give the public an overview of campaign financing trends? (8 points) (recent statewide information = 3 points; and/or recent legislative information = 3 points; and/or historical summaries for either = 2 points.)
1.3 Does the site provide information explaining the state's campaign finance restrictions? (3 points)
1.4 Does the site provide information explaining the state's disclosure requirements? (3 points)
1.5 Does the site provide a comprehensive list of candidates for recent or current elections? Does this list include offices and/or district numbers? Does it include party affiliation? (5 points) (List/office/party = 5 points; list and office or party = 3 points; list without office or party = 2 points)
1.6 Can the public determine which filers' reports are available online and which ones are not? (5 points)
1.7 Are the disclosure reporting periods clearly labeled? (3 points) (if filing period is featured in a report index = 3 points; if reporting periods are listed only inside the actual report = 2 points; if unavailable = 0 points).
1.8 Does the site use clear terminology to identify information? (3 points)
1.9 Are original filings and amendments available? Are amendments clearly labeled? (6 points) (Both original and all amended reports available online = 3 points; and/or amended reports are clearly labeled = 3 points)

2. Technical Usability (10 points)

Technical usability refers to the architecture of the disclosure web site. A site's structure, navigation, and database configuration have great impact on a site's overall "user-friendliness". When evaluating a site for technical usability, the following questions will be answered:

2.1 How easy is it to find the disclosure site from the state homepage? (4 points) (if you can find it quickly through a search tool and through a topical or agency browsing feature = 4 points; otherwise 0 - 2 points)
2.2 Does the site provide instructions for how to use it? (3 points)
2.3 Can the features on the site be easily utilized with a dialup modem and/or a machine with limited RAM? (3 points)

3. Usability Testing (27 points)

One of the best ways to evaluate a disclosure web site's usability is to see how easy or difficult it is for someone to use the site. To evaluate usability, the Campaign Disclosure Project developed a usability test and testers were asked to answer the following seven questions:

1. Find the campaign disclosure web page for this state. Copy the site URL into the space below.

2. From the list you were given, find the name of the governor of this state. How much money did this person raise in their last election campaign? Enter that amount in the space below.

3. Find a list of contributors to the governor's last campaign. Identify one contributor from that list. In the space below, provide the name of the contributor, the amount of the contribution, and any other identifying information (street address, city, zip code, occupation, employer, etc.)

Post-task survey (after each state):

4. How confident are you that you answered the three questions accurately? (1. Very confident 2. Somewhat confident 3. Not very confident 4. Not at all confident)

5. Was the disclosure terminology on this web site easy to understand or was it confusing? (1. Very easy to understand 2. Somewhat easy to understand 3. Somewhat confusing 4. Very confusing)

6. On a scale of one-to-five, with one being Terrible and five being Excellent, how would you rate your overall experience on this disclosure site?

7. Did this site require any uncommon software, plug-ins or browser features in order to view the information? (1. Yes 2. No)


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First published September 17, 2008
| Last updated September 17 2008
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Campaign Disclosure Project. All rights reserved.