Frustration Over Electronic Campaign Finance Reports

Members of the Interim Joint Committee on State Government voiced frustration Tuesday afternoon with the implementation of electronic filing with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance (KREF). Senator Damon Thayer (R-Georgetown) sponsored legislation in the 2019 session making electronic filing mandatory. He called the state’s execution of the measure “a complete and utter failure.”

Kentucky Interactive is creating the system. General Manager Carlos Luna argued the company went from an initial set of 89 requirements to 683. “Typically, when the scope grows, the time and cost do increase,” he stated. He told legislators the project had faced several challenges ‒ incomplete historical data, issues switching from paper to electronic information, and changes to the original scope. “It caused us to have to rework some of the development functions,” Luna stated.

He claimed Kentucky Interactive reached two of four project milestones but acknowledged key issues still remain, including printing reports before they are filed, advancing contributor information from the primary to the general election, and storing vendor information. Additionally, Luna admitted the public search feature needs work “to make sure that the public information is available, complete, and reliable.”

While he promised to work closely with KREF to make improvements and get the project fully functioning, KREF Executive Director John Steffen voiced concerns. “We’re talking about a project that should have been done two-and-a-half years ago,” Steffen said. He questioned Kentucky Interactive’s statement on increased requirements and said filing problems continue. “We keep seeing the same problems each reporting period.”

Steffen reported that the state paid Kentucky Interactive $314,517 and still owes the company $233,255, which he does not intend to pay until the system shows it can work.

Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Ryland Heights) questioned why the state should have confidence in the program. Luna responded that the company “is adding additional resources.”

“Disclosure, transparency, and accuracy of information is the cornerstone of campaign finance,” Thayer remarked. He questioned why Kentucky Interactive is still creating the system. “If you were in the private sector, you would have been fired two years ago,” Thayer stated. “I think these are excuses. Why are we still addressing these problems three years and a couple of election cycles after this bill was put into place?”

Thayer recommended the state “cut the cord with Kentucky Interactive.” He urged the legislature to pass an emergency clause during the 2023 session in January “that temporarily suspends the mandatory electronic filing requirement for one year” so KREF can “start over.”