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Campaign finance reporting goes online in Montana

August 22, 2005View for printing

If all goes well, political candidates next year will be able to file their state campaign finance reports electronically via the Internet, and Montanans will be able to look on their computers to see who's giving money to which candidates.

The new Campaign Tracker is a giant step in Montana where candidates and committees still file their campaign finance reports on paper, just as they have since the state political practices commissioner's office was created in 1975.

People who want to examine the data now must plow through thick reports or get copies. The commissioner's staff then spends months after the election typing the same information on the paper reports - who gave how much money to whom and how they spent it - into a computer database.

On Wednesday, officials sought opinions to the proposed Web pages that campaigns and political committee will be able to use - on a voluntary basis - starting next year to electronically submit their finance reports to the Political Practices Commis-sioner Gordy Higgins.

"It's fantastic," said Noreen Lehfeldt, finance director of the Montana Democratic Party afterward. "It will make it easier for the people to know what money is coming and going, and it will make it easier for the people who are filing."

By CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau

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