Denver’s newest election accountability tool is here — and it’s shockingly easy to use. On February 24th Paul D. López, clerk and recorder player in Denver, announced the release of Searchlight Denvera public campaign finance tracking system with an easy-to-use interface.
Previously, it was nearly impossible for the average voter to access campaign finance records in Denver. Clumsy, incomplete databases still exist from state and federal campaign finance libraries. Inaccessible campaign funding databases Create barriers for voters to understand exactly who is contributing to candidates, elected officials and ballot initiatives, and preclude any method of accountability.
While reforms are still badly needed at other levels of government, SearchLight Denver makes finding campaign finance information quick and easy. It will likely transform government accountability in the years to come.
Why easy access to campaign finance records is important
Without easy access to campaign finance records, the public misses an opportunity to fully understand who influences Denver politics. The implementation of such a user-friendly database is pending make Denver a leader in promoting transparent campaign finance.
“SearchLight Denver’s new system marks an important step in supporting a transparent and accountable democracy. We are excited to partner with the City and County of Denver to provide easy-to-use online information about how campaigns are funded,” said Daniel G. Newman, MapLight’s president and co-founder, in a statement.
A snapshot of SearchLight Denver’s software
SearchLight Denver has a simple, intuitive user interface. Users can search for campaign donations and spending for all elections since 2012. Campaign finance information includes candidates and campaigns. Both candidates and current election officials are required to submit their campaign finance records, which SearchLight visitors can now easily view.
“We need to provide enhanced transparency to the public so they can better understand who is funding the Denver election effort. SearchLight Denver is one of the most advanced systems for a community in the country, bringing everything together in one place where it is transparent, searchable and up-to-date,” Clerk López said in a statement.
The Denver Clerk and Recorders Office views the release of SearchLight Denver as an important tool for citizen participation and government transparency. Knowing who contributes to candidates running for public office and how much they contribute can help voters understand a candidate’s priorities in relation to their political platform. It also provides an accessible measure of accountability if elected.
Fair Elections Fund
SearchLight Denver is also an integral tool in the launch of Denver’s Fair Election Fund. Approved by voters in 2018, the fund supports candidates who volunteer to raise small amounts for their campaigns. The public fund will match donations of $50 or less from Denver residents at a nine-to-one ratio. The Fair Election Fund is working to level the playing field in campaign finance and begin to close the gap in election interference.
Additionally, in the fall, the platform will unveil an ethics portal that will include financial information and disclosures from lobbyists. Access to SearchLight in Spanish will then also be available.
“Our new system ensures we can capture the required information and validate the compliance of each donation before committing taxpayer money to qualifying campaigns. Our office takes its role as steward of public funds, keeper of campaign records and administrator of municipal elections seriously. With SearchLight Denver, we are able to provide candidates and voters with the transparency and accessibility they deserve,” López said in a statement.
Learn more about SearchLight Denver here.