McALLEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Thanks to a new law, local governments across Texas are starting to post campaign finance reports online.
“I’ve been around politics most of my adult life,” said state Rep. Carl Tepper, R-Lubbock, who authored the bill. “And I found it frustrating that I was not able to find the campaign finance reports of local elected officials on the web.”
Candidates for Congress file campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission, which maintains a searchable database of donations and spending. The Texas Ethics Commission maintains a similar database for state lawmakers.
Local candidates, however, file campaign finance reports with hundreds of counties, cities and school districts throughout Texas.
Many did not make the reports available online. To view them, voters had to make an appointment or submit a request under the Texas Public Information Act.
“And I thought it was time that they posted this stuff online,” Tepper said.
Tepper authored House Bill 2626, which requires local governments to post campaign finance reports on their official websites.
It also set a deadline: Whenever the local government received a campaign finance report, it had 10 business days to post the report online.
“It makes it so much easier for everybody,” said La Joya City Secretary Vanessa Trevino. “And the community has access to it right away.”
After House Bill 2626 became law, the city of Alamo created a new section on the city website for campaign finance reports.
“Our main goal is to make sure that our constituents are aware of what’s going on,” said Alex Rangel, who serves as assistant city manager and interim city secretary for the city of Alamo. “As a city, we try to be as transparent as possible.”
Other local governments had problems complying with the law.
Donna, which is holding a mayoral election, has not posted any campaign finance reports on the city website. Deputy City Secretary Belinda Tosca said the city IT department had “issues” with the website.
“So we’re still working on getting that done,” Tosca said. “But they are aware of the requirement.”
Donna released the campaign finance reports under the Public Information Act instead.
“I hope that the cities and counties understand that democracy comes with a little bit of cost for transparency,” said Tepper, the state representative who authored the bill. “And that this cost is well worth it.”