The Virginia Public Access Project is a non profit group that demonstrates how technology can improve public understanding of money's role in Virginia politics.
VPAP was formed to address a long-standing problem with Virginia's system of financing state and local election campaigns. Virginia imposes no limits on campaign contributions. The sky is the limit, as long as candidates file reports that identify donors who give more than $100. For decades, however, the public had no practical way to view — much less analyze — the paper disclosure reports on file at the State Board of Elections and local voter registrars.
In 1997, VPAP keypunched paper documents filed by candidates running for state office and posted the resulting database on the Internet. Information that had been confined to file cabinets became accessible to anyone with Internet access. Anyone could get a complete list of donors — sorted by name, occupation, amount or ZIP code. Over time, VPAP has taken a more inclusive view of money in politics. Its database that began with money raised by state candidates has expanded to include money spent by candidates, lobbyist registrations and candidates' personal financial holdings.
The launch of VPAP.org led the Virginia General Assembly to enact legislation to encourage — and in some cases require — candidates and political committees to disclose their donors electronically. VPAP plays a supporting role in the State Board of Elections' ongoing efforts to digitalize campaign finance records.
In 2007, VPAP launched a long-term initiative to shine "digital sunlight" to money raised by candidates for local office. The vision is a day when any Virginian can go online and follow the money to candidates who want to represent them at all levels of government: local, state and federal.
VPAP's excellence and non-partisan approach has won awards from numerous organizations, including the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, L. Douglas Wilder School of Public Affairs at VCU and the Society of Professional Journalists.
VPAP organized as a not-for-profit corporation that the IRS has designated as a tax-exempt 501-c-3 charitable organization. VPAP is run by a Board of Directors.