VIDEO: Opening up California’s data with MapLight’s Jay Costa

150 150 Alexandra Bjerg

The convoluted case of money flowing to a state’s attorney general’s campaign showed during this Sunshine Week that keeping data on government and elected officials out in the open is only going to get more complicated. Luckily, the open data technology movement is working on keeping the cold, hard facts from getting buried.

CA Fwd caught up with Jay Costa, MapLight’s program director, to talk about the state of transparency in California. Give the video a look.

As Sunshine Week comes to a close and CA Fwd wraps up its first Summit on Public Data, it’s important to take note of how much technology is playing a role in the open data government transparency movement.

There are several national groups that have been tracking the influence of money in politics and making it available through easy-to-use interfaces, including the Sunlight Foundation, Center for Responsive Politics, National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The website of MapLight, California’s homegrown transparency nonprofit, lets you delve into the connections between legislators, bills and interest groups. But, the organization leaves it up to the user to decide how much influence money is having on politics in California and nationally.

The important thing is that the data be made available and is easy to find. The State of California has made some strides, as California Forward’s report “Rebooting Campaign Finance Disclosure” notes, yet the Cal-Access campaign finance portal for the state resides on “ancient server clusters” and requires a significant amount of work to extract the data from it.

Even after Sunshine Week comes to a close, CA Fwd will keep highlighting high-tech transparency efforts, like MapLight’s, and continue working with the California Fair Practices Political Commission in its efforts to modernize Form 700 filings, the state’s economic interest declaration all elected officials are required to complete.

With the right technology and commitment, an open, transparent, and accountable government should gain more motivation to respond to the public interest and work on issues Californians from all over care about. 

Introduction written by John Guenther


Alexandra Bjerg

All stories by: Alexandra Bjerg