Texas Makes It Easier to Follow Money

WASHINGTON (07/24/2000) - Texas political candidates and political action committees can now file their campaign disclosure forms online, where they are available in real-time to media and the public.

"This is easier to file and makes the numbers more accessible to the public," said Kristin Newkirk, project manager for Texas Ethics Commission.

Candidates can file forms in two ways, either by filling out the forms on the Internet or by downloading or ordering software from the Texas Ethics Commission and filling out the forms at home and than uploading them to the Web server.

The site also provides the public quicker access to the information. People can search contribution records without submitting a formal request by using variables like contribution amount and individual donor. The solution also completes back-end functions for the commission, allowing for better records management and an easier-to-navigate database.

NIC Technologies created the "NIC Ethics and Election Solution" by combining several of its similar products used in other states, such as Oklahoma, Arkansas and Illinois. Texas bought the solution for about $450,000, Newkirk said.

Last year, the state legislature mandated that the commission impel more individuals and organizations to file online. Previously, filers could submit a disk to the commission or file manually.

The site, which supports both PC and Macintosh platforms, is free to the public. David Brandon, director of southwest operations for NIC, said it's possible that the solution could be expanded to Texas counties, as the same laws apply.

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