TransparencyCamp: Transparency = Accountability

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Robin Parkinson of the National Institute for Money in State Politics educates a room full of TransparencyCamp 2011-ers about campaign finance transparency on the state level. (More at …

Robin Parkinson of the National Institute for Money in State Politics educates a room full of TransparencyCamp 2011-ers about campaign finance transparency on the state level. (More at

Slides courtesy of Robin Parkinson, creator.

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  • unites all three as it works with disclosure agencies to reduce barriers to public information, transparency advocates who are being innovative with our open-source data, and the public which has free access via the web site, APIs and widgets to our comprehensive, highly credentialed state-level political donor information.
  • The Institute is the only nonpartisan, nonprofit organization revealing the influence of campaign money on state-level elections and public policy in all 50 states.
  • Candidates running for public office in all 50 states are required by law to file campaign reports. Every state has different laws, reporting thresholds, and deadlines. We compile this public information into a single, searchable, standardized database available, for free, at
  • myFollowTheMoney provides you the deepest access to our database of state-level political contributions. Use your account to download contribution data for any specific candidate, committee or state.
  • Stream data from our site to yours -- it's free and it's easy. API simply stands for Application Program Interface, which is a mouthful of terms that basically boils down to another way of accessing a database within your programs or Web sites. The difference is that this database is not stored on your servers or computers, but comes to you from across the internet and is maintained by us. We give you access to our campaign-finance database, which we update on a regular basis. A widget simply means an element of your Web page. It can be as simple as an image or a button. We have provided you with several basic widgets on our Web site that you can simply cut and paste into your own Web site. From there, they are automatically updated from our site.
  • Here, again, we use Ohio as an example. This 2011 committee list shows who serves on the committee that would address proposed legislation to regulate payday lenders. We filtered the results to see contributions form the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate business sector. You can click on each name to see who contributed to that committee member and learn whether they have ties to the payday lending industry. The committee lists are compiled by Project Vote Smart and updated simultaneously on our site. If you need a committee list that’s not on our site, go directly to that state’s legislative Web site.
  • Brennan Center for Justice cited Institute data in their brief for Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal—on June 8, 2009 the Supreme Court ruled that it was unconstitutional for a state supreme court justice to sit on a case involving the financial interests of a major donor to the judge’s election campaign. In the second case, Justice Souter cited the Institute’s report, “The New Politics of Judicial Elections, 2006,” as well “State Elections Overview 2004” as evidence for his dissenting opinion in the 2007 U.S. Supreme Court landmark decision on Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right To Life. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in autumn of 2009. The Institute co-signed an amicus curiae brief for this case; Campaign Legal Center and Justice at Stake relied on Institute data in preparing their briefs to the Court. Citizens United v Federal Election Commission


  • 1. Transparency = Accountability
  • 2. Disclosure Agencies Transparency Advocates The Public The Institute Unites Three Essential Components
  • 3. We Connect the Dots in 50 States
    • Ballot measures
    • Judicial candidates
    • Statewide candidates
    • Legislative candidates
    • Political parties
    • Lobbyists & clients
    • (no federal candidates)
  • 4. We search 100,000 + reports submitted by 16,000 + candidates to compile 3 million + records that total 3 Billion +
  • 5. We provide the facts. You draw the conclusions.
  • 6. my FollowTheMoney Create your private account
  • 7. Download selected data in delimited text … like this!
  • 8. Stream the data you want from our site directly to yours APIs & Widgets
  • 9. Picture what data can tell you
  • 10.
    • We offer dynamic research tools
    Dive in to see lobbyists legislative committees ballot measures party control top contributors incumbency advantage competitiveness…
  • 11. Who Represents You?
      • My District identifies legislative districts, election results and contribution totals
  • 12.
      • Examine each committee that addresses it
      • Use L-CAT to identify legislative committee members & see what each raised from any given sector
    Interested in Legislation?
  • 13.
      • Industry Influence identifies political donors with a vested interest in the issue
    Interested in the players?
  • 14.
    • We publish timely, nonpartisan issue analyses
    Hot Topics: Health care Judicial elections Citizen initiatives Energy Gambling Private prisons Same-sex issues Tobacco Unions
  • 15. Institute Research Reports We draw attention to patterns, anomalies, and newsmakers Search for reports by subject
  • 16. Journalists rely on our data CNN MSNBC PBS ProPublica Huffington Post ABC News Radio National Public Radio Fortune New York Times Wall Street Journal Boston Globe National Law Journal Los Angeles Times Chicago Tribune American Spectator Washington Post
  • 17. Impeccable Campaign Finance Data Influences the Nation
    • Dependable resource for headline news
    • Baseline information for election reform
    • Indisputable facts for activists
    • Authoritative research on patterns/anomalies
    • Cited in 3 Supreme Court decisions
  • 18. U.S. Supreme Court Institute data was used in three prominent decisions
    • Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal
    • Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right To Life
    • Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
  • 19. Who believes in our work? The California Endowment Carnegie Corporation of New York The Energy Foundation Ford Foundation John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fdtn. Open Society Institute The Pew Charitable Trusts Public Welfare Foundation Rockefeller Brothers Fund Sunlight Foundation
  • 20.
    • Contact the Institute researchers
    • 406-449-2480
    • robinp @statemoney .org
    • Follow us!
    • Twitter: @MoneyInPolitics
    Want to Learn More?