Campaign Finance           An overview
Why is this stuff so important?                       Politicians do notice                        campaign              ...
How to get attention “Top Verizon executives, including CEO Ivan Seidenbergand President Dennis Strigl, wrote personal che...
Happens at state level…                    You may recall Gov. Rick                     Perry                    Texas T...
…and at the local level                     Donors gave Kasim Reed                      campaign contributions           ...
Multiple means to exert influence                  Hire former staffers as                   lobbyists                  ...
Politicians have lots of pockets                   Campaigns                   Parties                   Leadership PAC...
Businesses “pick the pocket”                    Lots of places to look                    We’ll suggest some            ...
Two different perspectives onthis Money is inconsequential      Money is decisive   Contributors give to          Pres...
“When elected officials solicit thesecontributions from interests who almostalways have matters pending before theCongress...
That doesn’t mean…              That all politicians are               bought and paid for              Very few make up...
 Bank of America increased  the interest rate on Bonnie  Rushing’s credit card from  8 percent to 23 percent. Sen. Thoma...
 And how do the credit  card companies feel  about Sen. Tom Carper? Rushing’s monthly  interest bill went from  about $1...
Think of inputs and outputs
So before we go further into thefun stuff, let’s look at the rules…           Federal elections have one set of          ...
 In Colorado, corporate and labor donors are banned, except  when they aren’t Colorado Springs is the largest home rule ...
Let’s focus on Federal rules.Individuals can donate… (inflation adjusted)             (not inflation adjusted)   Up to ...
…but potentially a lot more if  they have a lot of friends Bundlers put together  networks of donors, all of  whom can wr...
Can also give unlimited amounts  to 527s, 501cs and super PACS All three have  separate rules  501cs don’t disclose  52...
Big trend from 2008? Rise of the small  donor Contributions under  $200 don’t have to  be itemized Campaigns must still...
Worth remembering…               Unitemized=less than $200               Obama’s totals very similar                to B...
Small donors get a raffle…                  $5 donors offered dinner                   w/Obamas                  Good te...
Big donors get access                    Donors who give to                     Obama & DNC get                     acces...
Bigger trends from 2008? Bundlers are bigger than ever They operate at the  presidential, congressional  and state level...
 As part of the Honest  Leadership and Open  Government Act of 2007  Registered lobbyists must   disclose the bundling o...
Easy to defeat disclosure                 We see tons of invites like                  this one                 Hosts co...
What a business can do Form (and pay  expenses of) a political  action committee   PACs can contribute    $5,000 per ele...
Note this language… Where are corporations like ExxonMobil and  Imperial Oil, and labor unions as well, making  contribut...
Make donations to 501(c)’s
…to some state level parties
…and to Super PACs Mostly individual donors Few businesses show up But individuals run  companies Have interests befor...
Hire lobbyists                  Lobbyists get access                  This page is beautiful                  Shows win...
Donate to inaugural committees                   All states have different                    rules                   So...
Pay for junkets                   Not always easy to                    trace                   Disclosure for          ...
Where do you get information? Federal                               State   Primary                                 Pr...
www.FEC.gov               Clunky               Getting                better               Still not                per...
Useful features Presidential election map    Congressional election  with zip coded                map with downloadable...
Other features                  Clunky search engine                  Ability to see raw                   paper reports...
Lobbying
What you get
OpenSecrets.org
Tons of data…                 Federal candidates                  1987 to present                 Pacs 1997 to present  ...
InfluenceExplorer.com
NICAR/IRE
New York Times
For non-developers
ProPublica’s PAC tracker
Wall St. Journal
State level campaign finance
State money
National Institute on Money in StatePolitics                          Like CRP, they                           industry c...
InfluenceExplorer.com
Get bulk data too
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Campaign Finance: An Overview by Sunlight Foundation's Bill Allison

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Bill Allison, Sunlight Foundation editorial director, provides an overview of companies and politics during the free, daylong workshop, "Follow the Money -- Tracking Companies' Influence on Politics."

For more information about free training for business journalists, please visit businessjournalism.org.

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Campaign Finance: An Overview by Sunlight Foundation's Bill Allison

  1. 1. Campaign Finance An overview
  2. 2. Why is this stuff so important?  Politicians do notice campaign contributors  That doesn’t mean it buys votes, but it does buy access and the opportunity to persuade an elected politician to see things your way
  3. 3. How to get attention “Top Verizon executives, including CEO Ivan Seidenbergand President Dennis Strigl, wrote personal checks toRockefeller totaling $23,500 in March, 2007. Prior to thatapparently coordinated flurry of 29 donations, only oneof those executives had ever donated to Rockefeller (atleast while working for Verizon).”
  4. 4. Happens at state level…  You may recall Gov. Rick Perry  Texas Tech fund rewarded donors  They gave in $32K-$310K range  They got millions back
  5. 5. …and at the local level  Donors gave Kasim Reed campaign contributions  Insiders raised money for Reed’s mayoral campaign  Airport concessions awarded to…  Big donors to Reed’s campaign  Big fundraisers for Reed’s campaign
  6. 6. Multiple means to exert influence  Hire former staffers as lobbyists  Hire former lawmakers, councilmen, etc.  Contribute to inaugural events  Give money to lawmaker charities  Give to super PACs  Hire relatives of elected officials
  7. 7. Politicians have lots of pockets  Campaigns  Parties  Leadership PACs  Nonprofits  Businesses & investments  Super PACs  Family members
  8. 8. Businesses “pick the pocket”  Lots of places to look  We’ll suggest some resources  Not all this money can be traced  Sometimes, you need sources
  9. 9. Two different perspectives onthis Money is inconsequential  Money is decisive  Contributors give to  Presidential campaigns are lawmakers because of the auctions; Congress is a big member’s positions (Phil flea market with all sorts of Gramm and NRA) bric-a-brac policies on saleTruth is always somewhere along the continuum between the two
  10. 10. “When elected officials solicit thesecontributions from interests who almostalways have matters pending before theCongress, [they] become at leastpsychologically beholden to those whocontribute. It is inevitable and unavoidable.”--William Brock, former Senator, former RNCChairman
  11. 11. That doesn’t mean…  That all politicians are bought and paid for  Very few make up bribe menus like the one to the right  But politicians tend to grant more access to big contributors than non contributors, and their views and actions sometimes reflect this
  12. 12.  Bank of America increased the interest rate on Bonnie Rushing’s credit card from 8 percent to 23 percent. Sen. Thomas Carper: “But let me just ask you -- put yourself in the shoes of the credit card company…”
  13. 13.  And how do the credit card companies feel about Sen. Tom Carper? Rushing’s monthly interest bill went from about $150 to $674 Small change to a U.S. Senator’s campaign committee…
  14. 14. Think of inputs and outputs
  15. 15. So before we go further into thefun stuff, let’s look at the rules…  Federal elections have one set of rules (and multiple sets of resources for following the money)  State elections have 50 separate sets or rules (one for each state)  Some local jurisdictions have rules specific to them (sometimes dependent on state law)
  16. 16.  In Colorado, corporate and labor donors are banned, except when they aren’t Colorado Springs is the largest home rule municipality in Colorado
  17. 17. Let’s focus on Federal rules.Individuals can donate… (inflation adjusted)  (not inflation adjusted)  Up to $2,500 per election  Up to $5,000 to a Political to a candidate, that is, Action Committee per year $2,500 for the primary,  $10,000 to state, district & $2,500 for the general local party committee (for  $30,800 to a national party use in federal elections, committee (RNC, DCCC, that is) (combined limit) etc.)  Unlimited amount to super  Up to $117,000 every two PAC for eligible U.S. donors years to PACs, parties, candidates…
  18. 18. …but potentially a lot more if they have a lot of friends Bundlers put together networks of donors, all of whom can write $500, $1,000 or $2,500 checks to campaigns They are much more important to presidential campaigns, but members of Congress also rely on them
  19. 19. Can also give unlimited amounts to 527s, 501cs and super PACS All three have separate rules  501cs don’t disclose  527s avoid some activities  Super PACs disclose but have few restrictions Candidates can raise money for super PACs Most giving so far has been individual
  20. 20. Big trend from 2008? Rise of the small donor Contributions under $200 don’t have to be itemized Campaigns must still keep donor lists for small donors, subject to FEC audit
  21. 21. Worth remembering…  Unitemized=less than $200  Obama’s totals very similar to Bush ’04  Congress relies more on big donors  Big money still decisive
  22. 22. Small donors get a raffle…  $5 donors offered dinner w/Obamas  Good technique for attracting small donors  Did it in 2008 too  But unlike the lottery…
  23. 23. Big donors get access  Donors who give to Obama & DNC get access  It’s not like spending $35,000 on lottery tickets  Lotteries are more honest…
  24. 24. Bigger trends from 2008? Bundlers are bigger than ever They operate at the presidential, congressional and state level (probably local too…) No requirement that their identities be disclosed, except…
  25. 25.  As part of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007  Registered lobbyists must disclose the bundling of contributions they do for federal candidates  Applies to individuals they bring to fundraisers, PACs they control or persuade to contribute  All bundles over $16,200 are reported.
  26. 26. Easy to defeat disclosure  We see tons of invites like this one  Hosts commit to raise money  Vast majority don’t show up as bundlers  Even when they’re lobbyists
  27. 27. What a business can do Form (and pay expenses of) a political action committee  PACs can contribute $5,000 per election (i.e., primary, general) to a candidate; $15,000 to a national party committee; $5,000 to state, district or local parties per year; $5,000 to other PACs per year  Funds must be “segregated” from other corporate money
  28. 28. Note this language… Where are corporations like ExxonMobil and Imperial Oil, and labor unions as well, making contributions?
  29. 29. Make donations to 501(c)’s
  30. 30. …to some state level parties
  31. 31. …and to Super PACs Mostly individual donors Few businesses show up But individuals run companies Have interests before gov’t
  32. 32. Hire lobbyists  Lobbyists get access  This page is beautiful  Shows wining and dining  Lobbyists are also contributors
  33. 33. Donate to inaugural committees  All states have different rules  Sometimes donors can give more  Enron gave lots to Bush’s inaugural committee
  34. 34. Pay for junkets  Not always easy to trace  Disclosure for Congress, Executive Branch  States, localities vary
  35. 35. Where do you get information? Federal  State  Primary  Primary  FEC.gov  State election  House Clerk authorities  Secretary of Senate  State ethics commissions  Secondary  IRE has a resource for  OpenSecrets.org finding them  InfluenceExplorer.com  Secondary  NICAR  Followthemoney.org  NY Times  InfluenceExplorer.com  ProPublica.org  Wall St. Journal
  36. 36. www.FEC.gov  Clunky  Getting better  Still not perfect  Original source of data
  37. 37. Useful features Presidential election map  Congressional election with zip coded map with downloadable contributions files for every candidate
  38. 38. Other features  Clunky search engine  Ability to see raw paper reports  Download huge data files  Enforcement, press releases, other data  Explanations of campaign finance law
  39. 39. Lobbying
  40. 40. What you get
  41. 41. OpenSecrets.org
  42. 42. Tons of data…  Federal candidates 1987 to present  Pacs 1997 to present  Lobbying 1998 to present  Trips, financial disclosure and much more…  You can buy custom slices of data from them
  43. 43. InfluenceExplorer.com
  44. 44. NICAR/IRE
  45. 45. New York Times
  46. 46. For non-developers
  47. 47. ProPublica’s PAC tracker
  48. 48. Wall St. Journal
  49. 49. State level campaign finance
  50. 50. State money
  51. 51. National Institute on Money in StatePolitics  Like CRP, they industry code contributions  Covers all 50 states  They always run a bit behind raw state disclosures
  52. 52. InfluenceExplorer.com
  53. 53. Get bulk data too

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