Electronic campaign finance reports for all state candidates, incumbents and other political committees are due to the Government Accountability Board by midnight Friday, January 31, 2014.
The time period covered is July 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013. For most committees, the report name is GAB-2, but conduits submit a GAB-10, and sponsoring organizations submit a GAB-12. For more information about deadlines for future campaign finance reports, please consult the first attachment on this page: http://gab.wi.gov/campaign-finance/limits-deadlines.
Filed reports are available online in the Government Accountability Board’s Campaign Finance Information System: http://cfis.wi.gov.
Many committees file their reports directly online using CFIS. Their reports will be visible to the public as soon as they finish inputting their transactions and click the “Submit” button. No action is required by G.A.B. staff for the public to see these reports.
Some committees file by emailing an Excel spreadsheet to the G.A.B. Our campaign finance staff must convert these spreadsheets and upload them manually into CFIS. Depending on when it is received, there may be a few hours’ delay in that report being available on CFIS.
A small number of committees, particularly those that have not raised or spent money, may file on paper by US Mail. Their reports must be postmarked by midnight on January 31, and will take several days to arrive at the G.A.B. and be scanned into the system. Reports of no activity are called GAB-2A.
Reports filed on paper or via spreadsheet will be visible on CFIS within 24 hours of receipt, but only as an Excel or PDF file. The ability to search for contributions and expenses on the report, described below, will not be available until the data is uploaded or manually entered into CFIS sometime later.
To search for reports on CFIS, it is not necessary to have a login. Just use the menu on the left-hand side of the home page. Click on “View Filed Reports” to get to the search screen. Under “Registrant Name” start typing in the candidate’s name. The system will suggest likely matches, so if you type in “Walker,” the system will suggest “Friends of Scott Walker” and a few other committees containing the name Walker. Don’t worry initially about using the other search criteria such as year or filing period name.
On this screen you will see the most recent report filed by the Governor’s committee is the July Continuing 2013 GAB-2 report, which is for the first half of 2013. By the time you read this, the Governor’s committee may have filed its report.
One important thing to note about some of the PDF reports: they tend to be huge (especially the Governor’s reports) because of the large number of contributors. In those cases, you may see two links, one for the “GAB-2” cover sheet that summarizes the report, and one for “Download” which will give you a ZIP file to save to your computer. The “View Filed Reports” search function will only give you reports in Adobe PDF documents, which are searchable, but not sortable.
If you want to do some analysis of the receipts (contributions) and expenditures in these reports, you can download them in Excel spreadsheets and other formats. You can start by searching campaign receipts and expenses using the “View Receipts” and “View Expenses” links on the left hand navigation menu. As before, you may search by Registrant Name, but you may also limit your search under “Filing Period Name” by selecting “January Continuing 2014.”
At the bottom right corner of the Expenses and Receipts pages, you will see green and blue icons for Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Word. Clicking one those icons will download the search results in that format. If you choose Excel, you will be able to sort and filter the data more easily. Advanced users may want to download the data in CSV (comma separated values) format for use in databases.
CFIS isn’t always the most intuitive website to use at first, but once you explore it a bit, you’ll find it has a lot of power to help you find information about who gives money to political campaign committees, and how that money is spent.
If you have questions about using CFIS, please give us a call, 608-267-7887, or email email@example.com.
Reid Magney, public information officer, 608-267-7887