Candidates file finances via Web

PA PowerPort

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Pennsylvania has brought the state's political campaign process into the Internet age by allowing all statewide candidates to file campaign finance reports online.

Candidates and political action committees (PACs) have been able to file reports with the secretary of the commonwealth in digital format since 1998, using CD-ROMs or floppy disks. With the Web-based process, they'll also be able to maintain and update contribution and expenditure records online.

The new filing system should "vastly improve" the time taken to collect the data and the way it is organized, said Richard Filling, commissioner of the Pennsylvania Department of State's Bureau of Commissions, Elections and Legislation.

Candidates and PACs that want to use the Web-based system (www.state.pa.us, keyword "Campaign Finance Reporting") can apply online to receive a log-in number, which they then use to create a password and user name.

However, said Brian McDonald, a Pennsylvania State Department spokesman, they still must send the department a notarized, hard-copy cover page with the appropriate affidavits and signatures. Pennsylvania law requires this hard copy version of the signatures and there are no plans to allow for digital signatures, he said.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge first proposed the digital form of the finance reports in his 1996-97 budget proposal. The Pennsylvania Department of State made campaign finance reports available for public viewing on the Web in 2000, and all reports filed since 1998 are archived on the PA PowerPort Web site.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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