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Sources of Information on Campaign Finance 

The contribution of money to political parties and candidates is an important way in which large corporations and wealthy capitalists exercise disproportionate influence over politics in the United States.  Until recently, reliable data on the nature and extent of these contributions has been unavailable or incomplete. In the wake of the Watergate scandals, stricter reporting requirements on the source and amount of campaign contributions were imposed on candidates for federal office.  With the Internet, information from these reports has become more widely accessible.  Much campaign money still goes unreported, and new loopholes are being created with each election.  Nevertheless, the publicly available data on campaign finance remains an important resource for studying patterns of political alignment and channels of political influence.  Below are some of the better online sources of data on campaign finance.   

  • Federal Election Commission.  This is the official site of the FEC.  It provides complete databases of hard money contributions for each election since 1994, available for downloading (very large files).  Limited interactive capabilities (mostly summary statistics).  

  • CQ Money Line.  One of  the best campaign finance sites.  Includes data on soft money and 527 groups.  Very interactive: easy to search by candidate, committee, state, or contributor.  But much of their data is available only for a fee.  Highly recommended.

  • Open Secrets (Center for Responsive Politics).  Another one of the leading campaign finance watchdog sites.  Searchable databases of contributors and candidates.  Not quite as comprehensive as CQ Money Line, but offers a wider range of freely available data.  Highly recommended.

  • Center for Public Integrity.  This site originated as a campaign finance watchdog site, but has since broadened its focus to include other areas of investigative journalism.  Less detailed data than the previous site, but good analysis and summary statistics.  Highly recommended.

  • NewsMeat.  Another website that allows you to search for political contributions by donor, candidate, or zipcode.

  • Common Cause.  The clean government citizens' lobby.  Extensive resources on campaign finance and electoral politics.  Excellent soft money database, searchable by contributor, state, or industry.  Candidate profiles and ratings.  Selected data on state-level political campaigns.  Summary statistics and well-researched reports on various aspects of campaign finance.

  • Public Campaign.  A site dedicated to promoting campaign finance reform.  Good source of information and links.

  • Follow the Money.  This site, operated by the National Institute on Money and State Politics provides selected data on contributions to state-level political campaigns.  Search interactively for candidates, contributors, and interest groups involved in gubernatorial and state legislative races for most states.

  • Campaign Finance Information Center.  Extensive resources on campaign finance.  Operated by Investigative Reporters and Editors organization.

Copyright 2012 by Val Burris