Follow the Money Online

Just because summer's almost over, and you've put away your cocoa oil and swimsuit, doesn't mean that you can't still go surfing. We've waxed our web browser in order to surf the Internet and find some sites designed to help the money-in-politics sleuth find the cash behind the campaign and untangle the complexities of the federal and state campaign finance systems. This list is by no means exhaustive, and given the extensive size of the Internet and its almost daily mutations, readers should take it simply as a guide and dive right in themselves. Surf's up!The BROOKINGS INSTITUTION has a Web site with a section devoted to the issue of federal campaign finance reform. The Brookings Working Group on Campaign Finance Reform brought together leaders on the issue of campaign finance to present their views on various reform proposals and to react to recent campaign finance developments. Forums included alternatives to the McCain-Feingold bill and a discussion of the fate of the political parties after the Colorado Republican Federal Campaign Committee v. Federal Election Commission decision. Participants include Joshua Rosencranz of the Brennan Center; Ellen Miller of the Center for Responsive Politics; and several academics including Frank Souraf of the University of Minnesota.The Web site of the CENTER FOR A NEW DEMOCRACY offers, among other things, several pages that address state-level campaign finance reform issues such as public financing, the use of personal funds, and $100 contribution limits.The CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY's site offers downloadable databases so users can search for financial information about the presidential candidates. Users also can read about Center studies such as "The Gambling Industry and the 1996 Presidential Election," which documents the gambling industry's campaign contributions to congressional and presidential candidates and to the Republican and Democratic parties.The ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP has a beautiful site which, among other things, has a section on Money and Environmental Politics. Users can find out how much money special interests gave their elected officials in the "Where you Live" section and read the full text of reports such as "Pay to Spray" and "Swamped with Cash," illustrating the connection between campaign contributions and specific environmental legislation.The FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION's Web site offers unfiltered information about candidate expenditures and receipts, PAC contributions, and party spending. Users can download their databases for the 1993-94 and 1995-96 election cycles.The FECINFO site bills itself as the "the non-partisan Federal candidate campaign money page" where "knowledge is more than equivalent to force." Tony Raymond, one of the site's architects, used to be the webmaster at the FEC. His site offers searchable databases of information provided to the FEC by the candidates and PACs where users can search for information on congressional candidates (both incumbents and challengers). Users also can get a listing of which candidates get the most money from out-of-state sources; this list can be sorted by percentage or by dollar amount. The site also offers a listing of the top 100 contributors in each state. In addition, it provides a chart of contributions to the presidential campaigns which, the authors say, will be updated every month within 48 hours of receipt of the candidate reports (assuming the candidates submit the reports by the due dates). While not the most glamorous of sites, FECInfo does offer a wealth of accessible information.The FOLLOW THE MONEY Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics offers a broad view of the world of money in politics -- from campaign finance profiles of every member of Congress to news and commentary on a variety of fronts. It includes Center briefings and press releases. Other on-line resources include reports that cover such topics as the financial clout of Washington lobbyists and the securities industry's investment in politics along with excerpts from noted Center publications. The Center's Web site also will offer information about non-profit groups working in the field of money in politics. Searchable databases will be added to the site to allow users to identify the sources of money to their members of Congress.Radio commentator and former Texas state Agriculture Commissioner JIM HIGHTOWER offers his populist reflections upon what goes on in Washington on-line. Users unable to hear Hightower on the radio can listen to commentaries such as "The Millionaire's Congress" and "Political Money and the Handshake" with a RealAudio player.The INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS AND EDITORS group has a Web site designed, in part, to help reporters understand the money-in-politics story. In the campaign coverage guide section, journalists can access story ideas and the summaries of reports from IRE conferences on topics such as electronic financial campaign reports and tracking campaign money.The new collaboration between MICROSOFT and NBC has produced a Web site which is somewhat difficult to navigate, but a search of "campaign finance" produced interesting money-in-politics articles, a listing of other Web sites related to money in politics, and candidate contribution profiles. Veteran money-in-politics reporter Sheila Kaplan is a regular contributor.Two states, MICHIGAN and FLORIDA, offer sophisticated Web sites, courtesy of their Departments of State, which allow users to obtain candidates' campaign finance statements on-line. Both also offer information about campaign finance reporting and contribution limits.The NORTH CAROLINA ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY's Web site offers information about campaign finance reform efforts in North Carolina. The site also links candidates and legislators' positions on issues with their campaign contributions and illustrates how money in politics affects issues of concern to consumers.The NATIONAL VOTING RIGHTS INSTITUTE hopes to unveil its Web site Oct. 1. Its mission is to challenge the constitutionality of the private financing of elections. The site will provide an overview of the constitutional theory that guides the organization and allow users to download its legal briefs and complaints.The PROJECT VOTE SMART Web site offers a complete database to allow users to access information on presidential, congressional, and state-level candidates' contribution data, as well as their voting records, background, and positions on various issues. Users also can search the database to match voting records with campaign donations. Project Vote Smart will be adding additional challenger information throughout September and October.PUBLIC CITIZEN's site offers a section on campaign finance reform which allows users to access the full text of the now-dead Bipartisan Clean Congress Act and testimony and commentary, including 10 arguments in favor of the bill. It also keeps users updated on the current state of the campaign finance reform effort.The Web site of 20/20 VISION offers an Election '96 section which, among other offerings, explains the costs of the current system of campaign finance.The Web site of POLITICSNOW offers a wide range of political information and access to articles from a variety of national newspapers. In its Money Talks section, Dwight Morris of the Campaign Study Group offers his perspective on campaign finance in stories such as "Playing it Safe: Top Contributors in Florida" and "GE Brings Good Things to Congress."Plugging in the address ( brings users to a site offering a variety of money-in-politics topics that focus on efforts in Wisconsin but also provide information and discussion about the policy arguments at the federal level. The architect JACK LOHMAN includes a discussion of the costs to consumers of the current system of campaign finance; information on how to get involved in reform efforts at both the state level in Wisconsin and the federal level; and an index of relevant articles and reports on money-in-politics subjects.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ }}
@2022 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by