Commentary

04/20/2017  by Ed Coghlan

New FPPC tool makes it easier to explore state official payments data


(Photo Credit: TaxRebateUK/Flickr)

The California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) is continuing to make progress boosting government transparency through technology.

Its latest improvement is an online disclosure system that makes it easier to search and view what are called "behested payments" which refers to instances when public officials are requesting money for their favorite charities or for payments made to people or organizations for legislative or governmental purposes.

"We congratulate the FPPC and Chair Remke for this improvement," said Lenny Mendonca, co-chair of California Forward. "Technology has the power to transform government. This allows the public to easily search a public official or a company that gives money or a specified group that receives money."

For FPPC Chair Jodi Remke, this latest advancement is the third improvement the political watchdog agency has made in using technology to upgrade public access to campaign finance and related data. Previously, it introduced e-filing for Form 700s, which are financial disclosure forms required of elected and public officials, and the Top 10 Contributors lists.

"We are always striving to improve our technology to increase transparency," Remke said. "An informed public is vital to maintain government accountability. This is another tool to provide the public information about their elected officials. It shows who is asking for money and from whom, how much and where it's going."

Under California's transparency laws, an elected official who fundraises or otherwise solicits payments from one individual or organization to be given to another individual or organization may be required to report the payment. Generally, a payment is considered "behested" and subject to reporting if:

  • It is made at the request, suggestion, or solicitation of, or made in cooperation, consultation, coordination, or concert with the public official; 
  • It is made for a legislative, governmental or charitable purpose; and 
  • It does not qualify as a gift (made for personal purposes) or a contribution (made for election-related activity) to the elected official. 

The FPPC is an independent, non-partisan commission that regulates, interprets and enforces the Political Reform Act, which covers campaign finance, conflicts of interest and state lobbying activity.

California Forward is working with innovators inside and outside of government to use technology to improve results, to promote pioneers and best practices and to identify how regulations and statutes can be modernized to accelerate the adoption of technology to serve the public interest.

To use the FPPC behested payments search tool, click here.

Categories: Democracy, Tech-enhanced Government, Open data, Accountability, Transparency, Accountability, Transparency

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