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Tracking Money in California Politics Might Get Easier

 401(K) 2013 / Flickr

401(K) 2013 / Flickr

Tracking money is California politics could get easier starting Thursday when officials are expected to launch a new campaign finance search engine.

“Power Search” was developed for the state by research firm MapLight. It will allow users to sort campaign money by categories, including elected official, geography, date range, ballot measure and by contributors. It will also offer data summaries, officials said.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Power Search is the first step in overhauling the state’s antiquated campaign finance database, known as Cal-Access.

“(Cal-Access) is really is pretty outdated at this point," Padilla told Capital Public Radio, following a demonstration of the new search engine on Wednesday. "(There’s) a lot of frustration by users that it’s slow. It crashes on a regular basis. And it’s not very user friendly. You usually have to run multiple searches to find the real information that you’re looking for.” 

He described the new system this way:

“Faster, clearly more reliable and more user-friendly for users trying to find how money is flowing in politics.” 

The software used to develop Power Search is open source, allowing others to build on and improve it. 

Padilla said the new website won't solve all the challenges of tracking money in state politics. But, he added, it shows the state is willing to partner with an outside group to make incremental improvements rather than waiting for months or years to do its own complete overhaul.

The move drew praise from Lt. Gavin Newsom.

In a statement, Newsom said he commends the initiative of Padilla "to engage the collective wisdom of people outside government rather than relying, as we always have, on those within the monolith. Technology puts power in the hands of the people. We have the tools available right now to transform government, democratize voices, and bring our nineteenth-century government into the twenty-first century.”

Power Search will be available to the public starting at 11 a.m. on the Secretary of State’s homepage, at www.sos.ca.gov


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