Public officials and employees for electoral candidates, political committees, and political action committees (PACs) must publicly disclose their campaign finances in accordance with different state campaign finance disclosure laws. This helps the public evaluate potential conflicts of interest, deters corruption, and increases confidence in government. Many of these campaign officials and employees, collectively known as filers, utilize third-party campaign management systems to help with this and other aspects of their campaigns. But reporting on large volumes of disclosure data for multiple filing cycles during the year can present a challenge for filers and these third-party vendors—especially when this data must be converted into various required formats to maintain alignment with state-specific laws.
Civix, a government technology (GovTech) company, uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide software and services that support multiple public sector use cases, including election management, grants management, and more. In 2021, Civix, also an AWS Partner, saw an opportunity to streamline how filers and third-party vendors manage and report disclosure data to states. Civix worked with the AWS Service Creation team to design and launch a serverless solution on AWS to support filers and campaign management vendors and to increase finance transparency for the constituents they serve. Once launched, Civix’s new bulk filing solution helped the State of Georgia process data from twice as many filers in less than two weeks. Read on to learn how Civix worked with AWS to create their new solution.
How Civix moved from idea to launch in nine months with the AWS Service Creation team
Civix knew there was a simpler way to integrate financial disclosure data into campaign management systems. They brought this initial idea to the AWS Service Creation and the AWS Professional Services teams to make this vision a reality. The AWS Service Creation team is a group of business and technical professionals who have experience building and taking software products to market, particularly in the public sector GovTech and education technology (EdTech) spaces.
Once Civix outlined their priorities to AWS, the AWS teams hosted personalized development sessions tailored to designing the solution. Together, they built a proof-of-concept to act as an incremental prototype. The AWS teams established weekly touchpoints to elaborate on best practices for each of the phases of design, development, and validation.
Civix worked with AWS to design their solution based on requirements from multiple states’ need for integration with campaign management systems, such as Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, and California—though they designed the solution with the ability to extend to other functional implementations as a common API. Civix included the State of Georgia, one of its forward-thinking state customers, in the development of the platform in the pilot phase, as the state was keen on improving accessibility for its filers.
In just nine months, the Civix Ethics API was born. Civix built the Ethics API in the AWS GovCloud (US) Region, which is designed to host sensitive data and regulated workloads and address the most stringent US government security and compliance requirements. Plus, Civix worked with AWS to design the Ethics API with AWS serverless technologies. This helps Civix seamlessly scale with the highs and lows of the campaign finance reporting calendar, which helps lower the cost of operations, all without having to manage any servers.
Previously, filers exported data from their third-party vendor and then imported that data into the Civix Ethics Platform to meet deadlines for financial disclosures. Now, the Civix Ethics API allows approved third-party vendors to submit data on behalf of filers. This removes the extra step of filers downloading and transferring the data from their vendors, which saves time, money, and reduces the likelihood of introducing data entry errors. Then, all reported data runs through the Civix Ethics Platform Reporting Engine to comply with state campaign finance laws, and is published to the state’s public site, increasing campaign finance transparency.
David Woodward, vice president of development at Civix, said, “Civix drives data transparency and consistency by removing the burden of manually entering thousands of financial transactions. By providing states with a library of API connectors that enable connectivity with their third-party vendors, we eliminate the need for states to depend on development resources every time a new vendor needs to integrate with the Civix Ethics Platform.”
How Civix built an AWS serverless solution for campaign finance disclosure
Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is the primary AWS serverless service that the application uses. Amazon S3 acts as an object store for the vendor to upload XLS and CSV files. The Amazon S3 buckets provide isolated data storage for each state with built-in encryption and other security features. Once the approved third-party vendors upload these files, APIs built using Amazon API Gateway provide endpoints to fetch information on processing status, submit for further updates, or retrieve existing records. These APIs are secured using Amazon Cognito to meet authentication, authorization, and user management needs. The backend file processing is entirely built using event-driven AWS Lambda functions to sieve through data at scale without underlying infrastructure management overhead. Once completed, each batch job persists its details in Amazon DynamoDB as a key-value pair using NoSQL schema design principles.
The following Figure 1 depicts the high-level architecture for the Civix Ethics API solution:
Figure 1. A high level architecture of the Civix Ethics API built with AWS.
In this architecture, API calls are authorized (1) using the standards-based OpenID Connect protocol. Amazon API Gateway applies usage restrictions (2) to prevent the Civix systems from being overloaded. Once authorized, a unique URL is generated (3) for the vendor system to upload filing data (4). An AWS Lambda function (5) validates and data then transfers into Civix Import Manager. As needed, the vendor system checks for the status of uploads or can update existing data corrections (6).
Civix Ethics API helps State of Georgia process two times more filers in two weeks
Civix worked with AWS to complete the end-to-end development and launch of the new Civix Ethics API in about nine months—just in time for the April filing deadline. Once live, the third-party campaign management vendors registered under the State of Georgia completed uploading a majority of the 320,000 transactions for 6,500 distinct filings via the new API in less than two weeks. This was twice the number of filers than the previous month and nine times as many from the beginning of the year.
Leslie Eagle, director of product at Civix, said, “The expertise and knowledge brought by AWS, along with the drive to understand the need for such a solution and the best way to implement using tried and tested AWS components, were key to our success.”
GovTechs around the world use AWS to develop scalable and secure technology solutions to improve the lives of state and local citizens. With dedicated business and technical resources to support growth, AWS supports GovTechs to start, expand, and optimize their business. Learn more about how AWS helps GovTechs at the AWS Cloud for GovTechs hub.
For more information about how AWS powers more efficient and connected operations to better serve constituents, reach out to the AWS Public Sector State and Local Governments Team.
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This content was originally published here.