California campaign database is back online
After an embarrassing, month-long outage, California's online database of campaign contributions and lobbying went back online in the final hours of 2011, once again allowing residents of the state that houses Silicon Valley to easily find out what corporations and unions are spending money to influence their elected officials.
The state's tottering Cal-Access database crashed Nov. 30 and remained offline for most of the month. In the meantime, staff at the secretary of state's office posted PDFs of new campaign contributions and responded to requests for historical data by hand-searching old files.
The system, which tracks lobbying expenditures and campaign contributions for state and local offices, came back online just before 6 p.m. Dec. 30.
The collapse was an embarrassment for Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who ran as a tech-savvy reformer. Her office said that upgrading the 12-year-old system could cost $20 million.
Bowen's office did not return a call for comment.
Open government advocates countered that, in an era of cloud computing, databases can be upgraded faster and cheaper.
State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has proposed doubling the fees on lobbyists to pay for an upgrade.
--Nicholas Riccardi in Sacramento
Photo: California Secretary of State Debra Bowen at her victory party after winning election in 2006, partly on her tech-savvy stance. Photo Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times