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The new tool comes out just as a race for Ohio governor, which is expected to cost each side at least $20 million, heats up. The next round of fundraising and spending reports are due Jan. 31 for statewide, legislative and judicial candidates.
Husted, a Republican, had been running for governor but is now Attorney General Mike DeWine’s running mate.
The Secretary of State database holds campaign finance records filed electronically over the past 20 years for legislative, statewide and judicial candidates as well as political parties, political action committees, legislative caucuses and other political entities.
The data is currently publicly available — reports filed in the past six years are accessible through a search tool and all reports can be downloaded into spreadsheets via an FTP site. The new API tool will allow easier, automated access in a different manner and let users display the information in charts, graphs or other easy-to-understand formats.
“This allows the ability to have a more robust tool at organizing the information and making sense of it,” Husted said.
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Willis said there is a learning curve to using an API but online tutorials are available to get people started. “At first it’s going to be a little slow in adoption because people haven’t seen it before, but once people start build things with it, it’ll get a lot easier for others to come in and do the same thing,” Willis said.
He added: “It is a great thing to see because it puts the power to getting access to government information in the hands of people and the public. That’s an important step and a really useful thing to see.”
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Those who want access to the portal must request a key from the Secretary of State’s office. Users will be asked for a domain name and other information. Husted said the tool will likely be used by news media organizations, political parties and campaigns, and good government watchdog groups to analyze fundraising, donation and spending trends and to inform the public.
Dennis Hetzel of the Ohio News Media Association said: “Ohio has been a leader among the states in making it easy to track government spending at a meaningful level of detail. Programs to provide timely, detailed access to the millions of dollars that go to political campaigns and candidates are equally important.”