FY 2003 FEC Budget Request
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This document is part of the Congressional Justification Budget Request for FY 2003 presented to the Congress Pursuant to GPRA and OMB A-11 by the Federal Election Commission on February 25, 2002.
FEBRUARY 25, 2002
Submitted to Congress/OMB
The Commission has responded to growing demands for more information by a wider audience of users and the demands for more timely availability of data with several program initiatives. The IT enhancement program and, most particularly, the electronic filing program have been key to meeting these demands.
The development of new processes using enhanced information technology has enabled the FEC to respond to a growing demand for informationand to deliver the information fasterwithout additional staff. Through the FEC automated fax system and the Internet, the public can instantaneously access FEC forms, publications and campaign finance data. Additionally, the new technology has broadened the audience for existing services. In the past, for example, a limited community of campaign finance specialists accessed the FEC database through the Direct Access Program (DAP), a fee-for-service program. The agency has now made it possible for these same expertsand the public as a wholeto access the data cost-free on the Internet. During FY 2001, the agency continued its conversion from the DAP to the FEC website.
The most important aspect of the disclosure initiatives is the electronic filing system. By 1998, the FEC implemented the voluntary electronic filing system for use by any political committee, other than Senate committees and the national parties Senate campaign committees that are required by law to file their reports with the Secretary of the Senate. During FYs 2000 and 2001, the FEC continued to develop incentives to encourage committees to voluntarily file their reports electronically. The voluntary program was successful, with over 1,000 committees filing reports electronically in the 2000 election cycle.
Electronic filing of reports enables the FEC to automate the processing of campaign finance reports and the data contained therein for inclusion in the disclosure database for each election cycle. It reduces the manpower required to process both summary report information and the detailed, itemized transactions required under the FECA reporting requirements. In addition, the electronically filed reports contain more data and information than just the statutorily required information, and this data is now available for manipulation for review and analysis.
On September 29, 1999, the President signed the FY 2000 Treasury, General Government Appropriations Act that mandated electronic filing in the 2002 election cycle for political committees reaching a certain threshold, excluding Senate committees and the national parties Senate campaign committees. The provision was effective for reporting periods beginning after December 31, 2000. Mandatory electronic filing was to begin in 2001 with the filing of the monthly reports due on February 20, 2001.
The rulemaking to establish electronic filing regulations was implemented in December 2000. Also by December 2000, the FEC completed development of the enhanced electronic filing program and established the capacity to process all anticipated electronically filed reports. To initiate the program, the FEC:
The mandatory electronic filing program took effect in January 2001. In July 2001, 2,460 committees electronically filed either their Mid-Year Reports or their July monthly Reports, with 1,135 committees filing electronically for the first time. Election-cycle-to-date financial activity for those committees filing electronically represented 82% of the total disbursements for all committees filing reports, excluding Senate filers. It is now estimated the approximately 90% of the total disbursements in federal elections is reported by electronic filers, excluding the financial activity for Senate filers.
Electronic filing has increased significantly the timeliness, scope, and amount of campaign finance disclosure data available to FEC staff and the public. A measure of the effectiveness of electronic filing is the comparison of the FEC target to process (make public) at least 95% of the itemized data within 60 days of receipt (based on historical and current experience in processing documents). Now that electronic filing is mandatory for most candidates and committees (excluding Senate filings), for the 2002 cycle to date, the FEC has processed 95% of the itemized data within 17 days of receipt, 43 days faster than the target. For the 2000 cycle, it took 44 days to reach 95% completion. In addition, the median days required to process the itemized data for the 2002 cycle is two days, compared to 11 days for the 2000 cycle. As we gain more experience with the mandatory electronic filing system, the targets for processing itemized data will be adjusted.
Educational and outreach efforts by the Commission have been successful, as indicated by the high level of compliance with the mandatory electronic filing requirements. So far, only a few committees that met the activity threshold filed a paper report rather than submitting filing electronically.
In an effort to improve the electronic filing process the FEC will continue to:
Development of new processes to improve internal document flow in the mandatory electronic filing environment will continue into FY 2002 and FY 2003. The automated review of reports will be expanded and enhanced.
The IT enhancements included in the FY 2003 budget will enable the FEC to initiate an Optical Character Recognition (OCR or scanning) process for Senate documents and other committees below the mandatory electronic filing thresholds. The IT Enhancements will also support implementation and operation of an enhanced document imaging system. The updated imaging system and the new client server infrastructure will enhance both the external user interface with the disclosure process and FEC internal processing and use of in-house documents.
Implementation of the electronic filing program to date has been focused on the development of the system itself and the filers. Attention in FY 2002 and 2003 will be focused more on the users of the data and reports, both internal at the FEC and external. Once the enhanced IT system is fully in place, the focus will be on how to make the wealth of data from electronic reports more widely used and more easily used with the more powerful tools available.
The ultimate enhancement of the web-based disclosure system is the FEC Portal Development Project (PDP). The client/server environment will be the foundation for the PDP scheduled to begin in FY 2003. This project envisions using the enhanced IT systems to develop web-based access to FEC data and information for both external and internal users. The development of custom formats for individual users will allow flexible and user friendly operation of FEC data retrieval systems. This conforms to the Administration initiative to streamline and modernize the federal government and to implement E-government. The combination of electronic filing and the PDP will be to significantly enhance the ability of FEC staff and external users to easily access and utilize FEC disclosure data and information.
Full realization of the potential of mandatory electronic filing would require the funding of several of the original FEC program enhancement requests for FY 2003. These initiatives included enhanced automated review, the data mining project, and upgrades of the Reports Analysis Division (RAD) staff engaged in the automated review process. By the 2004 election cycle, based upon our experiences with the 2002 cycle and the results of the RAD business process review, as well as the data mining project, the FEC was projected to realize the full benefits of both electronic filing and the IT enhancements in the document processing and reports review programs.
Unfortunately, the data mining project is not funded in the revised FY 2003 budget request, and will be delayed until at least FY 2004. The FEC will put a priority on funding the data mining initiative in FY 2003 if any funds do become available during the fiscal year.