“Keeping a Reporter’s Eye on the Contributions”
– Peter OverbyThe information revolution has brought an array of Web sites that collect, combine and otherwise buff up the campaign finance reports filed by candidates, political committees, and interest groups. Among the best:
(www.fec.gov) The Federal Election Commission offers contribution data on all federal candidates, party committees, and PAC’s. Also: periodic reports from FEC analysts on money trends in federal campaigns and Web links to state election agencies.
Among private Web sites:
- (www.tray.com) FECInfo is the most easily searchable, by donor or recipient. This spring, FECInfo was splitting into a free Web site for basic searches and a subscription service, FECInfo Pro, with merged data from FEC filings and lobbyists’ reports.
- (www.opensecrets.org) The Center for Responsive Politics has a variety of databases and specializes in sorting donors by economic sector.
- (www.publicintegrity.org) The Center for Public Integrity does investigative reports—most recently, a book chronicling the career-long fundraising habits of the presidential candidates—and puts much of its material online.
- (www.followthemoney.org) The National Institute on Money in State Politics doggedly builds databases of state-level political money. One highlight: donor lists from George W. Bush’s gubernatorial campaigns.
- (www.campaignfinance.org) Campaign Finance Information Center, operated by Investigative Reporters and Editors and the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, has a database combining contribution data from Washington and some states.
Several reform groups also have useful Web sites. Two worth noting are:
(www.commoncause.org) Common Cause and (www.publicampaign.org) Public Campaign.
It’s harder to find Web sites by anti-reform groups—those arguing that money isn’t so influential, that reform proposals are biased to help Democrats, or that big contributions are a First Amendment right. (www.nationalcenter.org) The National Center for Public Policy Research used to publish the Political Money Monitor. But the most recent PMM on the Web site is dated August 1999.