Writings and observations

Who gives, who gets

idaho RANDY
STAPILUS
 
Idaho

This is a call to do your own political investigations.

If you have an Internet connection, you can do it from where you are right now.

In the next few weeks you’ll see more news stories about campaign finance contributions and spending, since reporting deadlines are coming up. For Idaho state races, campaign finance reports – the “pre-general” – will be due at the Secretary of State’s office on October 10. (The next after that will be due October 28.) For federal, congressional, races, the next big one, the quarterly report, will be due at the Federal Election Commission on October 15. Spend a little time looking these over, and you can track the money trail yourself .

I spend some time each cycle checking out this information. You can too.

The secretary of state’s web site has an old-fashioned look, but the information is there and easy to get. Go to http://www.sos.idaho.gov/elect/finance.htm, which is about statewide constitutional offices, legislature and political action committees (and spending on ballot issues too). The information base here really is massive, covering elections back to 2000. Lobbyist reporting information is available through this page too.

The state database, allowing for name lookups and the like, is only available through 2012. But scanned copies of the reports filed by the candidates are available right away; click on the “2014” link. Following links in the next couple of pages takes you to pdf scanned copies of candidate reports. At present, the most recent are the “post-primary” reports (through May); the October 10 reports, which will bring the money picture up to present, should be available before a month from now.

Pull a candidate’s scanned report and you get what looks a little like a tax form, with spaces filled in with numbers, names and, often, addresses. You’ll see the amounts raised and spent (and still in the bank), and individual donors and recipients. In the most recent report for Otter for Governor, for example, you find donor number one was Paul Anderson of Potlatch, who donated $100; he was followed by CenturyLink Idaho PAC at $5,000, and on down through the pages. Some of the names are familiar, some not, but all are linked to the campaign with cash.

The official place for federal – congressional this year, but including presidential – campaign reports is the Federal Election Commission, through their “disclosure portal” at http://www.fec.gov/pindex.shtml.

It can be a little complicated to navigate, but a lot of useful data can be found there. You can click on Idaho in the House and Senate Campaign Finance Map, and campaign data for this year’s one Senate and two House races pop up. How much has, say, Representative Mike Simpson received for this election cycle? According to the FEC, that would be $2.3 million. The FEC also has attractive pie charts showing how much of that money came from individuals, political action committees, their party or the candidate himself. And you can pull up as much detail beyond that as you want.

There’s another federal campaign web site I also often check out, even if much of the information duplicates the FEC’s: The Center for Responsive Politics, at www.opensecrets.org. It is packed with additional information and analysis, and the information is thoroughly cross referenced.

All good material to consider as you prepare to mark your ballot. It often helps in politics to know who someone’s friends are.

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