Tuesday, May 20, 2008

State Elections Office=Ministry of Truth?

Yesterday, the Deseret News picked up on a report that gave Utah an F on campaign finance disclosure (we ranked 45th out of 50).

Here are a few of the easy to fix problems:
"You have no disclosure of occupation and employer for contributors, no last-minute reporting of contributions," says Bob Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies.
And it is not wonder we got such a rating when such things are not disclosed. Even worse, politicans can delete information that looks bad are errors on their own, without having to file a corrected disclosure form.
The state's 8-year-old electronic campaign finance reporting system is getting an overhaul, but for now, candidates can change or delete entries to their online documents without explanation or a visible trail.
A donation or expense that shows up today could be gone tomorrow.
That ease of use is justified, said Joe Demma, chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert.
"If someone submits a report and makes a mistake, they should have an opportunity to correct that mistake," Demma said.
State Attorney General Mark Shurtleff recently had two such vanishing entries.
In early May, the Deseret News reported an April 18 donation of $2,300 from Shurtleff's campaign to John McCain's presidential campaign, which some questioned as a possible violation of Federal Election Commission regulations.
But who checks to make sure it is a mistake Joe? Do we just take them at their word and let them edit it without a trace or affidavit? We don't even let people edit their own Wikipedia entries with so little oversight. Demma says that they will have new software up and running soon (supposidely before June 24th) that will track when such corrections were made.

But the article says nothing about any requirements on proof or oath as to why the changes are necessary...now or in the future.
online financial facts are subject to change at the whim of the candidate. And elections officials don't question why.
"I generally don't think people would think less of an elected official if a data entry error occurred," Demma said.
I might not think less of an elected official, but I sure do think less of state elections officials.

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