Grading State Disclosure 2008 Logo Graphic

P e n n s y l v a n i a


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Campaign Disclosure Law
Electronic Filing Program
Disclosure Content Accessibility
Online Contextual & Technical Usability

Grading Process green cube Subcategory Weighting green cube Methodology green cube Glossary

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The State of Disclosure in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania earned a C+ again and ranked 25th in 2008, up from an F and ranking 34th in 2003. Pennsylvania was one of the most improved states in Grading State Disclosure 2007, and again improved slightly in terms of web site usability in 2008 while also retaining a top ten ranking in the accessibility category.

Pennsylvania’s disclosure law earned a B and ranked 18th in the 2008 assessment. Candidates must report details about all contributors of $50 or more, with occupation and employer data disclosed for donors of $250 or more. Last-minute contributions and late independent expenditures must be reported prior to Election Day. Expenditure disclosure includes reporting of accrued expenditures, but subvendor reporting is not required. Pennsylvania’s electronic filing program is voluntary for statewide and legislative candidates, though once a campaign files electronically, it must continue to do so in the future. One-third of candidates chose the electronic filing option in the last election.

Pennsylvania ranked 10th and earned an A again in the Disclosure Content Accessibility category in 2008. The Department of State’s web site features HTML displays of both electronic reports and paper-filed reports that have been data-entered by agency staff, and searchable databases of contributions and expenditures contain both types of filings. Pennsylvania’s databases are among the most comprehensive in the nation, allowing site visitors to search by multiple fields (such as donor name, employer, or zip code) and sort their results online. Site visitors can also download itemized data found within specific campaign reports into a spreadsheet for offline analysis. Electronically-filed reports are available online the day of the filing deadline and reports filed on paper are typically available within 72 hours of receipt.

Pennsylvania improved from a D+ to a C- in 2008 in the web site usability category as the result of easier navigation from the state homepage to the disclosure site than in 2007. While the state slid four places in the rankings as other states made larger gains, Pennsylvania performed well again on the 2008 usability test. The Department of State’s web site provides detailed explanations of the data available online as well as instructions for using the various search tools. The agency is exploring the possibility of redesigning the disclosure system and could improve on the current features by providing the specific starting and ending dates of each reporting period within the index of a candidate’s reports, and by publishing overviews of campaign financing trends in Pennsylvania.

Quick Fix: Provide a simple comparison of the totals raised and spent by candidates for each office in the most recent election.

Editor’s Pick: The “Frequently Asked Questions” page provides a thorough description of the data available, including which candidates' files are accessible online, and the reports and the time period covered by the database. View image

Disclosure Agency: Department of State
Disclosure Web Site:

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First published September 17, 2008
| Last updated September 17 2008
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