State Capital Bureau
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's six statewide officeholders may soon go another mile down the information superhighway if the House approves legislation that passed the House Elections Committee on Monday.
The bill would require the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, state treasurer and attorney general to file all their campaign contributions on a computer disk. Under current law, only lobbyists must file electronically.
The bill's sponsor said electronic filing would make it easier for the information to be posted on the Internet.
"If you want data quickly where there are large expenditures," said Sen. Wayne Goode, D-St. Louis County, "the only way to get it on the Internet is to do it electronically."
Currently, the Missouri Ethics Commission handles paper versions of campaign contribution reports. If the reports are turned in on disk, employees would not have to key in data by hand before posting it on the Web.
Senate Minority Leader Steve Ehlmann said the electronic-filing requirement could discourage inexperienced candidates from running.
"I don't want to make it any more complicated than it already is," Ehlmann said. But, he said, candidates for statewide office generally run more sophisticated campaigns and already have knowledge of computers.
Besides, Ehlmann added, any complications in contributions reporting ought to be weighed against the public's right to know.
Missouri was supposed to launch a Web site for posting campaign finance information in January 1998. The Ethics Commission has filed a lawsuit against the company that was to have developed the site, saying it did not follow through.
Goode said the state is still developing a Web site for posting any campaign finance information filed electronically.
Today, the Missouri Ethics Commission only provides general information about elections and election law on its Web sites. Other states, such as Illinois, Arizona and Michigan, post statewide and legislative campaign contributions.
"It is the cutting edge of technology," said Joe Carroll, director of campaign finance for the Ethics Commission. "Most states are like us. They are just getting into it."