CalAccess database for campaign money crashes again ... and again


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Want to know how much oil companies are donating to your local assemblyman? How much the tobacco industry is spending on lobbying? Good luck.

The state website that allows residents to look up campaign contributions and lobbying activity was out of service for most of the last week and crashed again Friday -- a reminder, some say, of the state’s neglect of its computer systems.


The computer technology that runs Cal-Access is 12 years old and in need of modernization, but replacement would cost up to $20 million, according to Nicole Winger, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen. ‘It is fragile,’ Winger said. ‘There is no funding for support of this system.’

The weeklong crash of the system was caused when a memory module failed. Winger’s agency had to search for one of the three computer experts in the country familiar with the old technology and finally found a person who could fix it in Auburn.

The crashes are unnecessary, according to Derek Cressman, regional director for Common Cause. ‘It is outright embarrassing that the state where Silicon Valley is leading the world in computer technology cannot maintain its campaign disclosure system up to modern standards,’’ Cressman said.

He said the fees required of lobbyists to register with the state are among the lowest in the nation, and are lower than getting a fishing license. ‘So it should be a no brainer to raise those fees modestly to finance whatever improvements are needed in the Cal-Access system,’’ Cressman said.


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-- Patrick McGreevy