Grading State Disclosure 2003 Logo Graphic

Campaign Disclosure Laws

golden bar divider

Of the four categories assessed in the Grading State Disclosure study, states across the country performed best in the area of Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws. Four state laws received grades in the A range, and there were more B grades, 17, in this category than in any of the others. Twelve Cs and five Ds round out the passing states; twelve states failed the disclosure law assessment.

  • 29 states require a contributor's occupation and employer to be disclosed.
  • 5 states require only a contributor's occupation to be disclosed.
  • 2 states require only a contributor's employer to be disclosed.
  • 35 states require late contribution reporting.
  • 49 states require a description of an expenditure.
  • 22 states require subvendor information to be reported.
  • 40 states require independent expenditures to be reported.
  • 23 states require last-minute independent expenditure reporting.
  • 26 states conduct mandatory desk reviews.
  • 16 states conduct mandatory field audits.

States with the strongest disclosure laws, in rank order from one to eight, are: Washington; California; Georgia; Montana; Kentucky; Minnesota and Oregon (tied); and Hawaii, Missouri and North Carolina (tied).

States with the weakest disclosure laws, in rank order from 39 to 50, are: Maryland, New York, Tennessee and Utah, (tied); Indiana; Nevada and New Mexico (tied); Iowa; Alabama; Wyoming; South Dakota; and North Dakota.

The study found that all states require disclosure of some itemized contributor information, and in almost all states there is a threshold for the reporting of those contribution details. (Contributions below the threshold are reported in aggregate, but not itemized.) Twenty-nine states require the disclosure of both occupation and employer information for contributors, and an additional seven states require one or the other, but not both. Last-minute contributions must be disclosed prior to the election in 35 states.

Every state but North Dakota requires the reporting of campaign expenditures, and 21 states have no threshold for disclosure of individual expenditures, instead requiring campaigns to itemize each expense even for amounts as low as one dollar. All 49 states that require expenditure disclosure also require descriptions of expenditures, either through a plain-language description, the use of a descriptive code or both. Twenty-two states require reporting of subvendor expenses, such as a breakdown of credit card or consulting bills. While 40 states require the reporting of independent expenditures, only 23 states require last-minute independent expenditures to be reported before the election.

Some would argue that a state's campaign finance disclosure laws are only as good as their enforcement provisions; to that end the study found that many of the states are lacking. Twenty-six states conduct mandatory desk reviews of campaign finance disclosure filings, and 16 states conduct mandatory field audits of campaign finance-related receipts and documents. Some states that do not require such reviews by law, do conduct them anyway, but in general, enforcement is an area of campaign disclosure law that could be improved in most states.

Back to the Grading State Disclosure home page

Back to Findings Next to Electronic Filing Programs

This page was first published on September 17, 2003
| Last updated on September 17, 2003
copyright ©
Campaign Disclosure Project. All rights reserved.