Campaign donor list may go online

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At its meeting Thursday, the city of Berkeley's Fair Campaign Practices Commission discussed publishing campaign contributors' names online prior to elections rather than in a local newspaper - as has been done since the 1970s - in an attempt to save money and reach a broader readership.

The Berkeley Election Reform Act - passed by Berkeley voters in 1974 to regulate campaign finances - requires that a list of all donors that contribute $50 or more to a campaign be published in a Berkeley newspaper, along with the exact amount donated, within seven days of both the June and November elections.

Previously, the list was published in The Berkeley Daily Planet, which started publishing solely online in 2010. Prior to the November 2010 election, the list was published in the Berkeley Voice, but concerns regarding readership and money have raised the issue of publishing the list online instead.

Commissioners said copies of the list would also be available in libraries and other public spaces.

According to commissioner Stephen Bedrick, the city clerk came to the commission about five years ago requesting to put the information online to save money, but the commission voted it down. Now all members of the commission except for Bedrick are in favor of posting it online.

"Our options have gotten lower and lower," said commission chair Steve Wollmer about the choice of newspapers in which to publish the list.

However, Bedrick said he is not in support of stopping print publication because he represents the poorest part of the city, which has the lowest levels of computer and Internet literacy.

"They would get that information much more effectively in a newspaper," he said.

Bedrick said he is hoping that the list could be published in The Daily Californian, adding that he wants to extend discussion until there can be communication between the city clerk's office and the newspaper. Commissioners were also concerned with the Daily Cal's distribution and readership as well as the costs that would be involved with printing in the paper.

"One of the other charges is to reach the widest number of people in a cost-effective manner," Wollmer said.

In October 2010, it cost the city $1,876 to publish the list in the Berkeley Voice, which does not get distributed to most neighborhoods in the city, according to commissioner Brad Smith.

"If there were no costs, I'd say absolutely put it in the newspaper," Smith said. "The problem is we have a finite amount of resources."

At Thursday's meeting, the commission decided to gather more information and move the vote to the commission's next meeting in June.


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