By Beth Clayton
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–The Secretary of State’s office held a public demonstration yesterday on the new electronic filing system for Political Action Committees (PACs) and candidates. Since Secretary of State Beth Chapman was out of the state on business, a representative from her office lead the demonstration.
The new system “requires electronic reports of contributions and expenditures to increase the efficiency of data entry, provide more accurate data, enhance reporting capabilities and improve user navigation of the system,” the Secretary of State’s website says.
Under the new law, candidates and PACs will be required to submit monthly reports of contributions and expenditures, as well as report any contributions over $10,000 within two business days of receipt. Candidates are required to file based on when they reach a certain fundraising and expenditure thresholds. The legislature has passed a new law that would require candidates to file as soon as they have raised or spent $1,000, however that legislation has not been cleared by the Department of Justice. As of right now, candidates will file according to the old guidelines.
Since the Secretary of State is transferring records to the new system, all candidates and PACs must register online to use the electronic filing system, even if they are already registered with the Secretary of State’s office. They must then print, sign and mail their registration documentation in, as to ensure that nobody has been falsely registered.
Once candidates and PACs are registered, they will be able to enter their contributions and expenses manually, and the system will remember the information associated with each donor or invoice.
The system allows contributions and expenses to be entered manually or bulk uploaded via Excel spreadsheet.
The system will notify candidates by emails and pop-up reminders when they log in the system to remind them when their next reports are due.
The law states that candidates who do not file their reports, or who file them incorrectly are required to pay fines. However because the system is changing and in the process of being approved by the Justice Department, it is unlikely that the fines will be enforced for at least the first several months that the system is in operation.
As candidates and PACs use the system, the information will be searchable to the public. Simple searches should show not only finance reports of individual candidates and PACs, but also show who contributes to multiple committees, as well as where committees are spending money. This information can be downloaded in bulk formats as well.
Candidates and PACs may register, or individuals may search the system without registering, at http://fcpa.alabamavotes.gov.
For technical help, a Help Desk is available from 7:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Monday through Friiday to assist with questions about the new system.