The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

June 7, 2010
Money Trail: Campaign contribution records hard to find

Want to know who funded the hit piece on Sacramento County Sheriff candidate Scott Jones? Curious to learn how much Sacramento County Supervisor Jimmie Yee raised in campaign contributions since mid-March? Hoping to find out about late contributions to Jim Cooper's campaign?

Good luck.

Sacramento County's archaic contribution database was on the fritz last week and candidate filings have been piling up. This means a visitor to the county elections office -- say, a wanna-be-informed voter -- hoping to see the latest filings on the public computer terminal will be out of luck.

County staff are trying to get back on top of the paperwork and scan the documents into the system. So, for example, while you couldn't find contributions to Supervisor Don Nottoli for March 18 through May 17 on the public terminal as of Monday morning, you could scrutinize District 1 candidate Phil Serna's contributions.

Sacramento County is one of the largest counties in the state without electronic campaign contribution filing. The City of Sacramento has such a system, which means voters who want to know who is funding prospective city council candidates can find out quickly and easily from the convenience of their home computer.

In the county, however, supervisors and sheriff's candidates file paper forms that a county worker then scans into a database, which is then only accessible through a special computer terminal at the elections office.

As The Bee wrote in March, county elections officials have continuously asked for an electronic filing system they say would cost $50,000 to install and another $7,500 a year to maintain.

-- Robert Lewis

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