Grading State Disclosure 2008 Logo Graphic

W a s h i n g t o n

Honor
Grade
Rank
A
1

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Subcategories
Grade
Rank
Campaign Disclosure Law
A-
3
Electronic Filing Program
A+
1
Disclosure Content Accessibility
A+
1
Online Contextual & Technical Usability
A-
3

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

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The State of Disclosure in Washington

Washington has earned the top grade and rank in each of the five Grading State Disclosure assessments conducted since 2003, and improved from an A- in 2007 to an A in 2008. Washington improved from a C to an A- in the usability category since the last assessment and earned As and top-three rankings in each scoring category this year.

Washington earned an A- and ranked 3rd in the disclosure law category in 2008. Candidates must itemize contributions over $25, including occupation and employer data for those donating over $100. Last-minute contributions must be reported prior to Election Day. Disclosure of campaign expenses is also strong, and includes information about subvendors and accrued expenditures. Independent expenditures are disclosed, and those made in the 21 days leading up to an election must be reported within 24 hours. Washington earned an A+ and a top ranking again for its electronic filing program. Both statewide and legislative candidates who reach a threshold of $10,000 must file their disclosure reports electronically with the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC).

Washington earned its fifth straight A+ and number one ranking in the Disclosure Content Accessibility category in 2008. Washington’s online, searchable databases of contributions and expenditures are among the most comprehensive in the nation and contain both electronic reports and paper-filed reports that have been data-entered by PDC staff. The database offers multiple search fields and results can be sorted online or downloaded for offline analysis. Electronic reports become available online immediately after they are filed, and paper filings are accessible online the same day they are filed, usually within two hours of receipt. Access to paper copies of disclosure records is excellent, and the agency also offers campaign finance data on disk for $2-$10 depending on the volume of data requested.

Washington improved from a C in 2007 to an A- in 2008 and jumped 13 places in the usability rankings with a much stronger performance on the usability test. Washington was one of seven states to achieve the highest possible rating on the 2008 test as most testers found the site easy to understand and reported high levels of confidence with the site. A possible reason for the stronger performance is the new “Campaign Money Map” that clearly shows the total amount raised by each gubernatorial candidate in the 2008, 2004, and 2000 elections. Although it debuted after the 2008 web site evaluation period, the PDC did unveil an excellent, new search interface in July 2008 that provides easy access to campaign data for all users (from novice to advanced) and allows a wide range of search and sort options for those wanting to conduct more advanced research. The new system allows the public to navigate from the state’s web site to summary disclosure data within three mouse clicks, a remarkably efficient process.

Quick Fix: Provide an overall explanation of the data available through both the searchable database and browsable reports sections of the PDC’s site, including which specific offices, reports, and time periods are covered by the data. Currently, explanations are given throughout the site, but site visitors would benefit from a single, clear description of the data available.

Editor’s Pick: The “Campaign Money Map” offers a quick and easy way to determine which gubernatorial candidate has raised the most money on a statewide or county-by-county level for the 2000, 2004, and 2008 elections. View image View image

Disclosure Agency: Public Disclosure Commission
Disclosure Web Site:
http://www.pdc.wa.gov

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First published September 17, 2008
| Last updated September 17 2008
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Campaign Disclosure Project. All rights reserved.