By Craig McDermott
Continuing with the guide to using the website of the Arizona legislature (though this one will briefly cover the use of the website of the Arizona Secretary of State, the focus here is still on legislators)…
The first part can be found here.
The second part can be found here.
The third part can be found here.
The fourth part can be found here.
The following is accurate as of the date of writing. While I do not expect that there will be any significant changes in the functionality of the website for this session of the lege, I cannot rule out the possibility that there will be changes – that’s completely out of my control.
It was created while using Mozilla Firefox as the browser. Other browsers may display differently.
No matter how well this is written, it will not and should not be expected to replace experience with using the website. I hope this helps people get started, but users should take the time to familiarize themselves with the website and its nuances *before* they need to use it efficiently.
Lastly, this is not a comprehensive guide to using the website. I’m covering the basics in a way that I hope serves to help people who are just getting started.
Point your browser at http://www.azsos.gov/.
On the left margin of the page is a list of options. Scroll over “Elections” and select “Campaign Finance”.
As readers can see, there are a number of available options on this page. We will focus on two.
Click on “Search the Financial Reporting Database”.
This page provides access to campaign finance reports, helping to provide insight into why legislators and other elected officials do the things that they do, even if those things are contrary to the best interests of their constituents.
Hint: The “pay to play” mentality is alive and well at the state capitol.
Across the top of the window are a series of tabs –
Candidate (the list here defaults to statewide candidates, but the menu on the right margin can be used to change the list to legislative candidates)
Ind Expnd (aka – Independent Expenditure)*
Seg Fund (aka – Segregated Fund)* – (these three often seem interchangeable as many of the committees have “PAC” in their names but are not legally created as PACs or vice-versa [don’t have “PAC” in the name but created as a PAC])
Ballot Msr (aka – Ballot Measure)
Offc Hldr (aka – Office Holder)
Contributor (a useful one if you know a contributor’s name and want to see if they have made any contributions)
Also note that the options on right-hand margin include the ability to change the election cycle being search, back to the 2000 cycle.
When you see a candidate or committee that you wish to look into, click on the name. That name is hyper-linked to the filer detail page.
This page contains links to that filer’s campaign finance reports, as well as the filer’s basic information (contact info, office sought [if appropriate], chairman, etc.)
Click on a report name; the selected report will open as a .pdf.
Have fun. 🙂
The other item of focus on the campaign finance page is “Personal Financial Disclosures for Public Officers”.
Select a filing year.
The column on the left shows the name of public officers who have filed disclosure reports.
In Arizona, the reports themselves border on useless. There is very little specific information contained in them, which shouldn’t be a surprise – the lege established its own ethical and disclosure requirements.
However, “border on useless” is not the same as “completely useless”.
For instance, Sen. Steve Yarbrough’s disclosure form illuminates some of the many ways that he personally profits from his school tuition tax credit legislation –
He heads the Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization (ACSTO), which siphons off a percentage of donations directed to the organization, as well as HY Processing, which ACSTO pays for the handling of those donations.
In short, the AZSOS’ website has no utility when looking into specific legislation, but can be a good source of insight when looking into the motivations of specific legislators.
Now that you have some of the basic tools to track and weigh in on legislation, and to watch legislators…
…Let the 2015 session of the Arizona lege begin…