- - Thursday, October 17, 2013

A group of 10 states, led by California, has come together to form a new nonpartisan organization to pool resources to tackle campaign-finance abuses across the country. Organizers say the new States’ Unified Network Center could become a powerful pressure group for stricter enforcement of campaign-finance laws.

“Enforcement will always be done at a state level, and you always have to follow state laws. This is just a depository for that information,” said SUN Center member Jared DeMarinis, director of the candidacy and campaign-finance division of the Maryland State Board of Elections. According to Mr. DeMarinis, the information gathered by the member states could help enforcement agencies get a better idea of who the major players in campaign finance are and what they are doing in other states.

SUN Center members say they are addressing a growing need to keep people informed in preparation for upcoming elections. “Disclosure is one of the foundations of making informed decisions for the population at the ballot box,” Mr. DeMarinis said.

Sponsored by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), the SUN Center consists of representatives from California, New York, Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Montana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington and Iowa.

FPPC Chairwoman Ann Ravel, who played a major role in the creation of the SUN Center, said that the group’s mission was to provide the public with better information about proposed state legislation, regulations and advancements in disclosure technology. The California FPPC has already won legal settlements against organizations committing campaign abuses and hopes to continue to investigate and enforce campaign legislation nationwide. The center could also be used as a legislative clearinghouse to let states know what laws and regulations are being proposed in other states.

Mr. DeMarinis also highlighted the SUN Center as a place that state representatives could share information about new disclosure technologies. Text-message contributions are among some of the newer technologies in the campaign-finance arena, and Maryland was one of the first states to use this tool.

Campaign finance “is a constantly changing and evolving field,” he said. “Some states are on the cutting edge of certain technologies, developing and looking at it in different ways.”

The SUN Center is a one-stop shop for anyone seeking campaign-finance records, regulations and legislation and technology information, making the search for answers much more convenient. “The public can look to [the SUN Center] to find information regarding an organization rather than having to search for information on multiple Web locations and trying to piece together a puzzle,” Mr. DeMarinis said.