Following the campaign
With the 2012 presidential election campaign well underway, you'll want to access this story pack for all things campaign finance related. From campaign contributions to political action committees (PACs) we've provided lots of helpful stories and tipsheets to help you get your story off the ground and onto the page.
Money and Politics-Who's Giving
This tipsheet is a detailed guide to finding out who is giving money to politicians and their staffers and why.
Grimaldi covers basics for backgrounding politicians, but goes into depth about some of the things you should look for in their property records, etc. He also details how to explore their campaign finances and various lobbying and travel reports.
Investigating Political Influence
Baker provides a list of questions one should consider - and ask their sources - when covering influence at government agencies. Included are useful links for deciphering the puzzle of influence: lobbying disclosure forms; IRS filings and disclosures; earmark data; and much more.
Databases: Investigating Locally and Around the World
Donald's presentation explores the importance of a "data state of mind" for reporters. Beyond knowing FOIA laws, he outlines the (at least) 25 databases every newsroom should have and use in their reporting. The databases cover several different beats, and Donald details the value of each.
Social Network Analysis
This presentation shows several examples of social network analysis. Kessler explores what social network analysis allows you to do in your reporting, and several topics - such as campaign finance and charity scams - that are ripe for such analysis
Tracing Money In Federal Politics
Campbell details how to track federal campaign finance information. He identified the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as the "fountainheads of federal campaign data." Campbell gives an overview of the type of information available on these sites. And recommends searching the FEC site whenever you are backgrounding an individual.
Resources for Following the 2012 Campaign
Masket provides over a dozens websites for you to use when covering all things campaign related; from advertising to political scientists' commentary.
Frank provides some good sources to use when gathering background information on candidates for election in Colorado.
Resources for covering elections
Dowdell, Horvit and Luther compile some of the best resources for following the money, the candidates and much more.
Center for Responsive Politics guide to covering the 2012 election
With the 2012 election promising to be the most expensive on record, Novak offers helpful questions to ask yourself when covering the candidates' spending as well as outside groups' such as SuperPACs.
Bloomberg's Offshore Millions/The Secret Campaign of Mayor Mike
The two stories take an unprecedented look at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's finances. One story uncovers how Bloomberg used a loophole to invest charitable funds in overseas tax havens. The other story examines the questionable tactics of his secretive campaign effort called "ballot security."
The Mayor and the Money
Campaign finance reports of the Shreveport Mayor suggested that the campaign finance laws had been broken. Anonymous contributions, multiple entries for the same donation, donors that circumvented laws on contribution limits, and donors with questionable backgrounds were found in the reports.
Murphy take a comprehensive review of 20 years of campaign finance reform in New York City and its impact on elections in the city. While aiding in avoiding campaign finance scandals, its done little to level the playing field for those running.
Secret Money Project
The Center for Investigative Reporting and National Public Radio launched the "Secret Money Project" as a joint initiative to track the hidden money in the election season. In 2004, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisements hurt Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's campaign. In the 2008 presidential campaign, independent groups also did everything possible -- sometimes well under the radar -- to influence the election. Independent groups raised and spent tens of millions of dollars, unleashing attack ads, robocalls and direct mail across the country. Although NPR is best known as a radio network, the primary venue for the Secret MOney Project was npr.org. The project Web site featured a blog of breaking news and analysis. It serves as a searchable database of independent groups and attack ads, which provided a real-time public resource during the election and will continue to be a research tool that can shed light on future political races.
The series of stories explores the effect of the Republican sweep in 2002 of the Texas state government and the controversy behind the funding that got them there. This three year investigation was part of Tom DeLay's downfall, and led criminal investigations and civil lawsuits against the state's largest business organization.
Money and Politics
A year-long investigation into the role of Tennessee campaign contributions in Tennessee politics, and how candidates used these contribution funds. The Times found that candidates filed inaccurate disclosure reports and that there was little to no examination of the documents. They also took a look at Tennessee money in federal elections, and found that local races were not competitive, and that Republicans in particular were funneling contributions to out-of-state candidates.
Perry's Private Deals
An investigation into Texas Governor Rick Perry's political campaign. The investigation uncovered Perry's relationship with his doctor and his back-room pressure to make the stem cell injection practice- which isn't FDA approved- big business in Texas. The Texas Governor also quietly retired and started cashing out his pension and salary concurrently.
Green Energy: Contracts, Connections and the Collapse of Solyndra
Beginning in March, the Center's Ronnie Greene and ABC's Matthew Mosk and Brian Ross exposed flaws in the Department of Energy's billion-dollar spending spree, revealed deep links between Obama campaign bundlers and energy contracts and foreshadowed the financial and political storm that later engulfed Solyndra. Our reporting for "Green Energy: Contracts, Connections and the Collapse of Solyndra" broke ground before Solyndra's meltdown, and went well beyond the company in revealing a web of connections entangling a department lauded for its innovation. Working as full-reporting partners, our stories tied major Obama donors to lucrative green energy contracts for everything from electric cars to diesel substitutes. After over a year of reporting, we produced 50,000 words for the Center's website, thousands more on ABC's site and broadcasts on World News Tonight, Good Morning America and Nightline. Our stories, built from FOIA requests that yielded thousands of contract, financial and ethics documents, served as a template for national media reports that followed.
Follow the Unlimited Money
Following the Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited donations to political campaigns from outside groups, the Sunlight Foundation launched a tool to track the activities and campaign contributions of organizations.
Please note this is only the data that comes from the Federal Elections Commissions FTP server, cleaned up. NICAR refreshes the data every Monday morning. This dataset does not include electronic disclosures, which may be more up to date than the information on the FTP server, but have not gone through the same vetting process as the FTP data.
This dataset is now available in three different formats: in comma-delimited text files, in dBase format and as a MySQL-friendly SQL batch file. See the readme for details.
Information from the Federal Elections Commission shows campaign contribution information for all candidates seeking federal office and all federal political action committees. The database contains four tables, which include information about candidates and committees as well as individual contributor information and campaign contributions by PACs.
The individual contributions table includes only itemized contributions, meaning those that exceed $200. It can be difficult, therefore, to use this data to find accurate contribution totals per candidate.
The data contains the amount of each contribution given by the individuals and PACs. Some of the fields include the candidates name, party, address and district and the committees name and candidate ID number.
NICAR provides the data in two ways: As a complete data set for each two-year cycle or a cycle subscription that is updated weekly. The updates consist of all of the data since the beginning of the cycle year.