Campaign finance reports now on Cuyahoga Board of Elections’ Web site

 
Campaign finance reports now on Cuyahoga Board of Elections’ Web site

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Ellen Kleinerman, THE PLAIN DEALER, 12/10/09. CLEVELAND, Ohio — For the first time, campaign finance reports are available on the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections’ Web site.

Posted on Wednesday were reports for municipal and countywide candidates going back to 2003. Reports for council and judicial candidates go up next, followed by reports on tax issues and political action groups.

But don’t look for 2009 accountings just yet. Those will be added after the reports are audited, said Jane Platten, the board’s director.

A candidate’s finance report lists the names of donors and their contributions as well as how a candidate spends the money taken in.

Campaign finance reform — especially for elected officials who take donations from employees — is likely to be addressed as a new government forms in Cuyahoga County. The charter put in place when voters approved Issue 6 in November does not address reform, but people who wrote the document said last week that they would soon deal with the issue.

The head of a good-government group praised the board’s move to the Internet — which is not required by law.

With a number of county officials under federal investigation, accountability has never been more important, said Catherine Turcer, legislative director of Ohio Citizens Action.

“It allows voters to see who is supporting candidates and issues before the elections,” she said. “You can connect the money with the possible influence it has.”

She added, “You need a system that is open and transparent. It’s nice to know that ordinary citizens can look at these reports anytime they want.”

Platten said the Cuyahoga board, which came under fire three years ago for questionable procedures, is making good on its promise to improve public service and access to public records.

Only Franklin, Hamilton and Lucas counties already had finance reports online, the Ohio secretary of state’s office said. The secretary of state has put finance reports online for statewide offices for the past 10 years.

Platten said the board is required to keep six years of financial records on file and available. That was the reason Cuyahoga decided to post reports dating to 2003.

Board employees began their work in June. “Scanning all the documents has been monstrous,” said Platten. But it should pay off in the future.

“In any given day we have multiple requests for financial reports,” she said. By allowing individuals to go to the Internet, fewer workers will be tied up responding to requests, and residents won’t have to drive downtown or pay for copies.

The records are not searchable on the board site. That means a person cannot do a computer scan for a specific name or corporation while viewing a specific report. Platten said the board is looking into the search option for future records, but it would involve uniformity of forms and software.

To access the reports go to boe.cuyahogacounty.us/, then select the icon for campaign finance reports. For questions on the site call 216-443-3200, Ext. 4150.