The campaign finance records collected by Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission haven’t always been easy to access. But the agency’s new director, Evelyn Fielding Lopez, says citizens need that information, and she has some interesting ideas on how to get it to them.
Prominent citizens who make political donations could soon see those contributions highlighted on the PDC's Facebook page.
The PDC oversees spending by political candidates, campaigns and lobbyists in Washington. Lopez says this information can be useful to voters confronting a sea of claims and allegations.
Lopez: “I think it’s harder and harder to be an informed voter. There is so much money in politics. It is very difficult to just watch the news and figure out what makes the most sense to you. So I want to do whatever we can to push information out so people know there are other resources.”
Lopez says the agency has redesigned its website and she hopes to make records available faster.
Her agency could receive a lot more filings if statewide public financing for campaigns is approved by voters in November.
Lopez says she’s curious to see how Seattle’s new public financing system for elections will work in terms of tracking and reporting all those small contributions.
Lopez: “What I’m very interested to see is what happens with the Seattle initiative. That’s nice because it’s local, it’s sort of a controlled population, and I know that they are working on setting up their systems right now to make that happen.”
Seattle’s program was passed by voters last year and is being implemented by the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission.
Voters will receive four vouchers worth $25 each, paid for by property taxes, which they can donate to candidates of their choice. City officials say the first vouchers will go in the mail to voters in January next year.
Lopez says the big questions for public financing are whether the programs will lessen the influence of big political donors and get voters to be more engaged.