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Campaign database still down, prompting calls for investigation

December 14, 2011 |  3:36 pm

There were calls Wednesday for an investigation and urgent legislation regarding the crash of a state database that allows the public to find out which special interests are contributing to and lobbying elected officials.

The Cal-Access system has been down for most of the last two weeks, and Secretary of State Debra Bowen, whose office operates the database, could not provide a firm estimate Wednesday of when the system might be back online, even as her staff struggled to find a fix. Her office said it is taking multiple approaches to the problem, one of which may take 14 days to complete.

"This is looking less like a freak accident and more like a systemic failure that would warrant legislative hearings to get to the bottom of," said Derek Cressman, regional director of Common Cause. "Californians should not have to be patient when it comes to information on how powerful interests are lobbying our elected officials and funding their campaigns."

 State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) announced Wednesday that he is introducing legislation to double the registration fees paid by the state’s 1,000 lobbyists to finance proper maintenance of Cal-Access.

"It is simply unacceptable that the public cannot access basic information on campaign contributions and lobbying activity,” Yee said. "The crash of Cal-Access not only prevents public access, it means government is not being transparent or being held accountable."

Bowen’s office is going through an emergency contracting process to bring in experts on the 12-year-old technology. She estimates it could cost $10 million to $20 million to replace Cal-Access, but Yee said his bill would raise $50,000 to at least provide patches and proper maintenance in the meantime.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

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