Arkansas launches new, ‘more friendly’ campaign finance disclosure filing portal

Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston speaks at the state Capitol in Little Rock in this Oct. 29, 2021 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)
Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston speaks at the state Capitol in Little Rock in this Oct. 29, 2021 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

The Arkansas Secretary of State's office launched a new campaign finance disclosure and filing portal Monday, billing it as a more user-friendly alternative.

The secretary of state's office says the new reporting system will be easier to use for those searching its online campaign finance database and for candidates filing their reports.

The new portal can be found at:

The portal is an updated version of the state's database of information on candidates, political action committees and lobbyists which lists finances, donations and disclosures. While the new website is live, information on it is not complete, as most candidates have yet to upload their information.

Since 2017, Arkansas law has required state candidates to file their campaign finance information electronically. Before then, Arkansas was one of the last states not to have an online database for campaign finance, meaning anyone wanting to look at a candidate's disclosures would have to pore over hundreds or thousands of pages of documents, sometimes handwritten and occasionally illegible.

In a message on the new portal, the secretary of state's office said the new reporting system promises a "user-friendly interface" and "efficient data entry."

All future reports will be uploaded to the new portal, while the old site will remain up for research purposes, according to Chris Powell, a spokesman for the secretary of state's office. However, reports for lobbyists and statements of financial interests will not move to the new website until January 2024, Powell said.

In addition to allowing for searches for a candidate, committee or donor, the new portal also has suggested searches such as for the top spending political action committee, top fundraising candidates or all contributions of more than $2,000.

The secretary of state's office has sent an email to candidates asking them to create an account and upload their first- and second-quarter financial reports to the new website and will offer training and one-on-one assistance on the new portal at the Elections Library.

The office is also encouraging candidates to upload their third-quarter reports, which are due Oct. 16.

Last year, the secretary of state's office selected ReFrame Solutions, based in Hartford, Conn., to develop a new website, after complaints the old website was antiquated, clunky and not user-friendly.

After the 2017 law requiring candidates to file their disclosures on a online database, the state contracted with PCC Technology Inc. of Connecticut to build a database to house the information for the state.

The old database was prone to errors and glitches, with downloaded data sets that often lacked specific kinds of information, according to a December 2021 story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

In July 2022, the Arkansas Legislative Council approved a $1.1 million request from the secretary of state's office to fund the new reporting system.

Information for this article was contributed by Michael R. Wickline and Lisa Hammersly of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.