© 1996 San Mateo Times
· Editorial

Political disclosure records on Net? Speier has a plan

Jackie Speier -- once again -- has a good idea.

Our member of the Assembly from South San Francisco has introduced a bill that would make all statewide candidates and lobbyists file political disclosure records on the Internet.

Why should you care -- especially if you are not wired to cyberspace?

Excuse us if we take a circuitous route in answering that question.

As newsprint prices have risen throughout the past two years, the newspaper industry has struggled with balancing those wicked cost increases with our longtime role of informing the public.

It's not just a problem at The Times. Newspapers nationwide are finding ways to cut information in an effort to save on newsprint.

A partial answer may be the Internet. Computers may eventually replace newspapers, but no one sees that happening immediately. As more and more newspapers offer information over the Internet (see The Times at http://www.baynet.com/smtimes/index.html"), the combination of newspapers and cyberspace working together makes sense.

Newspapers are the place you can get the highlights of what is happening. Cyberspace has the space to give you the details.

Newspapers can print short stories about campaign funding, but it's hard to justify the space to print more details. If Speier's bill passes and this information must be put on the Net, it will be much easier for the public to know who is taking what from whom.

"The public wants ethical accountability in their elected officials," said Speier in a press release. "Computerized access to all financial information regarding lawmakers and lobbying entities is the only realistic way for government watchdogs and members of the public to review current disclosures."

Speier's bill is also sponsored by Bill Jones, Republican Secretary of State, which should greatly increase its chance of becoming law.

The beauty of the Internet is that it's an endless resource for material. As other media are forced to limit what they can offer, the Internet can help people stay informed -- imperative in a free society. Speier's bill should be law and she should be lauded for her efforts.

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