Macomb County Clerk makes political money trail transparent
As candidates in the August 3 Primary Election file campaign finance reports (due this Friday), Macomb County voters can now “follow the money” by searching individual and PAC contributions, and even contributions from employees of companies by searching company name, using a system hailed as the most transparent in Michigan.
The new campaign finance system, developed by the Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds, goes “live” today. It will be updated with political contribution data throughout next week, starting Monday with candidates for county executive. See http://macombgov.org/Clerk-Elections .
[Editor’s note: until actual data is input on Monday, after Friday afternoon’s filing deadline, you may test it with committee name “Friends of Larry Fictitious” or fictitious contributors named: Rosa Mitchell, Mary Finley and Linda Fictitious.]
“A lot of people worked really hard to bring about a new form of government in Macomb County and this service will help that new government get an open and transparent start,” said the Macomb County Clerk. “Campaign finance information does not belong to the candidates. It belongs to the people of Macomb County.”
Rich Robinson, Executive Director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a Lansing-based nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog organization, called the county’s campaign finance reporting system, “the most transparent in Michigan.”
“Macomb County’s campaign finance reporting system is the most transparent in Michigan for reporting county and local political money,” said Robinson. “The ability to track and report on individual donations has been in place on the federal and state levels, but this is the first time in Michigan it is available on the county and local level. Voters can easily see who is supporting whom for public office, and make their own conclusions about the significance of that support.”
“Every county in Michigan should follow Macomb's lead and implement a system like this one,” said Robinson.
Starting next week, information for all county and local candidates who file campaign finance reports will be searchable to show donors’ names, dates, contribution amounts, and the campaign committee that received them.
Users can also sort the data to see:
- A candidate’s largest contributions, and to which other campaigns the donor contributed.
- Which candidates get contributions from employees of a specific company and see the total list of contributions given to candidates by that company’s employees. (State law requires those who contribute $100 or more to disclose their occupation and employer information.)
- A link from individual contributions to the specific pages of the campaign finance report where the donations appear.
“The Board of Commissioners has worked to create an environment of governmental transparency, and the Clerk’s campaign finance system is a shining example (of this) by making information on county and local campaign contributions more accessible to the public,” said Macomb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Paul Gieleghem.
The county purchased the initial system through competitive bids from Consulting Engineering Associates, Inc. in 2004 for a one-time cost of $259,600. The newly-added donor-tracking feature cost $19,050, and was paid for from budget cuts made by the Macomb County Clerk as part of the Board of Commissioners’ budget-balancing actions last year.
Candidates appearing on the August 3 primary election ballot who do not have a reporting waiver, or didn’t maintain one, must file a campaign finance report by Friday, July 23 at 5 pm showing money received and spent. Candidates who do not expect to spend or receive over $1,000 for an election may request a reporting waiver. Once they have the waiver, and as long as it is maintained, they are not required to file campaign finance statements. The waiver is lost and reporting is required when $1,000 is spent or received.
This is another in a long list of accomplishments for the Macomb County Clerk / Register of Deeds who has received 32 National Association of Counties “good government” awards during her career and created innovative programs like:
- Posts “naughty list” online of those that owe campaign finance violation fines.
- Created a system to let candidates pay campaign finance fines online.
- Uses competitive bids for election supplies; saved over $500,000.
- Switched to Google Premier E-mail and collaboration software.
- Has evening hours Wednesdays, making sure people can get personal service if they cannot leave work to visit the clerk’s office during the day.
- Gives pagers to waiting jurors to shop; most costs paid by local businesses.
- Accepts credit card payments, making paying for services easier.
- Provides overnight delivery service for vital records and court documents.
- Allows concealed weapons permit applicants to check their permit status online.
- Provides wireless Internet access for jurors waiting to be sent to a courtroom.
- Offers a business name and death record lookups on the Internet.
- Provides free library book delivery to jurors waiting to be picked for a trial.
- Offers public real estate documents online.
- Offers a mobile branch office bringing clerk’s services to local communities.
- Provides free bus service to people summoned for jury duty.
- Launched a toll-free 24-hour fax-on-demand system providing forms and info.
- Started a Personal Protection Order Assistance Center to help victims of abuse.
Out of State: 310-575-5035