Despite some tech updates, Pa. campaign finance site remains unwieldy

(Image via <a href=Pa. Dept. of State)" title="screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-5-25-50-pm" width="640" height="360"/>

(Image via Pa. Dept. of State)

One of the Wolf administration’s recent priorities has been improving Pennsylvania’s virtual systems — just this week it rolled out a text-messaging voter registration service, and last month launched a new open data portal.

But one online resource hasn’t seen updates in years: the online database for campaign finance reports.

The search portal for the reports says, in small print, that it was copyrighted in 2004.

Barry Kauffman, executive director of the nonpartisan government reform group Common Cause Pennsylvania, said he began petitioning to have the site updated just four years later, in 2008.

Kauffman has also lobbied for laws that would require the state to make the reports easier to access and analyze. So far, he hasn’t had much success.

“No. 1, believe it or not, the system is actually much better than it used to be,” Kauffman noted. “No. 2,  it is still extraordinarily cumbersome. It is fully searchable if you want to spend a lot of time doing it. But it is not user friendly.”

That, Kaufman said, is bad for accountability.

“The people who benefit from a murky view of who’s funding campaigns are the people who push the green and the red buttons in the House and the Senate,” he said. “They benefit from a system which does transparency which is murky at best.”

The Department of State said it’s “aware of concerns about the campaign finance website,” and that it has a plan to enhance the system.

There’s currently no start date for that plan.

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