A citizen needs to know who supports a candidate, and the contribution amounts, to truly know the candidate. Political backing is a fact a diligent citizen does not ignore. With campaign finance laws, plenty of good information is available. Go to a government office to request the contribution information.
Find out what information you can find on public record. Not all political contributions are on record. The federal, state or local government might have records of the public going back only into the early 1990s and make the most recent information available online. Put in a call to the Federal Election Commission, a Secretary of State or State Board of Elections, or the local Registrar of Voters, Recorder or County Clerk. Information is also posted online. Smaller contributions do not have to have a public record. An individual has to contribute over $200 to a committee for a federal campaign before the law requires the committee to keep records and make the records available to the public. With voluntary record keeping and disclosure, some information on small contributions is available.
Decide on an approach to finding political contributions. Your approach depends upon the information you have and the information on contributions you want. In every approach, you find out who contributed or how much. If you know the name of a candidate, committee or proposal and want to know the contributions for a campaign, you can simply look up the records by candidate, committee or proposal. To find an individual contributor and the amount of a single contribution, you need to know the person's name or address. If you do not know, start with person, group or legislation, and find the list of contributors.
Look up contributions for a candidate, committee or proposal. Use your information to tell the office handling public campaign finance records the list you want for a campaign. For a federal campaign, you can call the FEC at 1-800-424-9530 or 202-694-1120 or write to the Public Records Office to make a request. You can also search records online by visiting www.fec.gov/disclosure. State and local offices accept requests. Be ready with information on the person, group or law. Name, address, contribution dates and political party information is standard. For a proposal, know the type of legislation and the election.
Review the contributions list to find a list on contributor or contributions you are interested in. Once you know the name and address, or date and election, you can look up the details on contributions by a citizen or group.
Look up the contributor or contribution. Using the information you gathered, submit a request to the federal, state or local office. You can walk in to the office, mail a request, or call or e-mail. You might also be able to search records online. Look on your office's Internet site.
Ask for a print out or request copies. Tell the office the exact record you want by name, date and election campaign.
Pay a fee. For a small amount, you learn an important funding act.
- Reading the campaign finance law is very informative. You will know the contribution records the government consistently makes available to the public. If the law requires the finance disclosure, the record will be available. Committee contributions have the best records.
- Records are up to date. You can access information soon after a committee or candidate reports.
- Campaign finance records include more than monetary contributions from individuals and groups. You can also find records on contributions in kind, such as office furniture and loans.
- You might be able to order records on a CD-ROM.
Items you will need
- Information on a candidate, political committee or political proposal (optional)
- Information on contributions (optional)
- Campaign finance laws for federal, state or local campaign (optional)
- Pen, typewriter or computer word processor
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