Heller offers candidates electronic campaign reporting system

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Secretary of State Dean Heller is offering candidates an Internet system for filing campaign contribution and expense reports he described as a boon both to candidates and the public seeking information on those running for office.

"I think this election cycle is going to be watched very carefully," he said Thursday.

He said there are systems for campaign accounting used by many major candidates, but they cost up to $10,000. The system developed by his computer staff, he said, will be available to them for free through the secretary of state's Internet site.

"We're trying to provide for candidates a system they can use from top to bottom to file their reports," he said.

He said once a candidate registers electronically, he can file his reports into the system as they are received. Then, when the filing deadline approaches, they can officially "file" the report -- at which point it is officially logged into the Elections Division and becomes public.

Each candidate's information and file is protected by a unique password and user name assigned to them. But any member of the public can examine the information through the Internet.

Candidates enter the information on an electronic form that resembles the paper forms used by the Elections Division and the system adds everything up for them.

"I think it may catch on quicker with the smaller candidates," he said pointing out that the system is free.

Heller said he would ultimately like contribution and spending lists to become available as each transaction is reported into the system but he said many candidates would resist reporting before the three report deadlines set by Nevada statutes.

The other side of the coin, he said, is that information filed electronically will become part of a database the press and public can search to find out who is giving how much money to which candidates.

"There's no better way to determine the tendency of how a candidate is going to vote than to read their contributors," he said.

He said unfortunately there are too many involved in the political process who "want as little public disclosure as possible."

The system also allows users to search the system by name. Users can put in the name of a prominent contributor and find everyone that person or corporation has contributed to and how much.

Heller said there may be some resistance to filing electronically, but he guaranteed there will be at least one candidate using the system this coming year -- Heller himself, as he runs for another four-year term as secretary of state.


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