Campaign finance reporting takes a step forward


Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann on Tuesday unveiled the state’s new online system for campaign finance reports.

It’s a big step in the right direction. If candidates use it, voters will be able to easily see who is paying for a candidate’s campaign.

If candidates and political action committees use it, voters will be able to search the records by candidate and by donor.

Today, the only way to search through such donations is to look at each candidate’s reports and go line by line. It can take hours for a statewide candidate who receives hundreds of donations.

After the start of 2017, those donations will be entered into spreadsheets by the candidates. It could be a breeze to connect a candidate and his or her benefactors.

But there’s an If.

And it’s a big if. The system is voluntary. The Legislature and governor could have made using the new system mandatory but chose not to.

So it is up to the people those officials serve. We urge voters to tell their representatives, senators and statewide officials to sign up. They work for you, after all.

And we urge candidates who care about transparency — as a concept, not a campaign slogan — to sign up for the new system.

There remains work to do on campaign finance. We believe one day lawmakers will feel enough heat they’ll take cars, RVs and cowboy boots off the list of things candidates can buy with donations, for example.

We believe if the people demand it, state officials will be more transparent in all their dealings.

So tell your favorite lawmaker to get on board. Because if the people don’t demand change, it will be business as usual.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.