Last month iWatch News reported that executives from Bain Capital, Romney’s private equity firm, have spent nearly $5 million trying to further Romney’s political agenda since 2004. This investigation would not have been possible without public access to both federal and state campaign finance information.
The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 initially established substantive disclosure requirements for federal candidates, political parties, and PACs. Subsequent amendments and legislation, including the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 and the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 have further strengthened these requirements.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) website has all the information required to be disclosed for federal elections, although it is dense and hard to navigate. Organizations such as the Sunlight Foundation, ProPublica, and the New York Times have taken FEC data and reworked it into more user-friendly formats while also drawing out the information most relevant to the upcoming presidential election.
Super PAC Data
The article digs into the finances of Restore Our Future, a Romney-supporting super PAC, and states the following:
- Bain Capital employees gave $3.1 million in 2011
- Through January 2012, Restore Our Future spent $1 million on advertising for Romney
Information regarding Restore Our Future’s contributions and expenditures can be found using Sunlight’s super PAC tracking tool. An initial look shows five contributions from individuals naming Bain Capital as their employer: $125,000 from Steven Barnes, $250,000 from Domenic Ferrante, $250,000 from John Connaughton, $250,000 from Stephen Zide, and $500,000 from Paul Edgerly. The data also show that as of March 7, 2012, Restore Our Future has spent almost $900,000 supporting Romney and nearly an additional $30,000,000 slamming Gingrich and Santorum.
Official Campaign Contributions
The iWatch News article also investigates the finances of the official Romney presidential campaign. It states the following:
- Since 2007, 85 people listing Bain Capital as their employer gave $188,000 to the official Romney campaign.
- Two Sun Capital executives, Rodger Krouse and Marc Leder, and their wives contributed $19,000 to Romney’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. Bain Capital previously joined Sun Capital in company ventures.
- Staples executive Thomas Stemberg – who received millions from Bain Capital back in 1986 to grow Staples – and his wife contributed $5,000 to Romney in 2011
Sunlight’s Influence Explorer provides detailed campaign finance data for politicians including Mitt Romney. There are 107 records of donations from Bain Capital employees in the 2007-2008 cycle, two in 2009-2010, and 71 in the current cycle (2011-2012). The Influence Explorer search can be modified to find the donations from specific individuals such as the key executives mentioned in the article by using search features within the tool.
The article also states that Bain Capital spent $3.1 million on lobbying on regulations for the financial industry and tax benefits for the wealthy. The Lobbying Disclosure Act regulates lobbyist registration and reporting requirements on the federal level. This data can be found using Sunlight’s InfluenceExplorer, OpenSecrets.org, or SoprWeb, which is a tool on the Senate’s website that allows you to search and view lobbying disclosure forms.
Leadership PAC Data
The article also highlights Romney’s state and federal leadership PACs, which are all named Commonwealth PAC. It states that much of Romney’s federal leadership PAC money came from 16 Bain Capital employees and their wives; some of whom contributed tens of thousands of dollars in a single day. It also makes the following claims in regards to donations to the state leadership PACs:
- By the summer of 2004, Romney supporters had established a federal Commonwealth PAC and four state Commonwealth PACs, in Arizona, Iowa, Michigan and South Carolina. Once the PACs were set up, the Bain money started pouring in.
- Commonwealth PACs were established in New Hampshire and Alabama, and 2006 became the year for the largest amount of contributions to the PACs, especially in Michigan and Iowa. In a single week in 2006, former Bain executive Fraser Bullock and his wife gave $43,000 to four Commonwealth PACs.
- In another instance, Peter Karmanos Jr., the executive chairman of Compuware Corp., a Detroit-based company that Bain considered acquiring but declined in 2007, contributed $246,500 in a two-week period in 2006 to four Commonwealth PACs. A month after one contribution landed at the Michigan PAC, Karmanos became a member of its steering committee. Scott Romney, Mitt Romney’s brother, sits on the Compuware board of directors.
The federal information is available on the FEC’s website, OpenSecrets.org, and Influence Explorer. All of the state level information is available through Influence Explorer, the National Institute of Money in State Politics, and Secretary of State websites.
In Iowa the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board oversees the enforcement of Iowa’s Campaign Disclosure – Income Tax Checkoff Act. The board provides a search tool to explore the state’s campaign finance data either by candidate, political party, or PAC.
Title 16 Chapter 6 of the Arizona Revised Statutes establishes contribution limits and disclosure requirements. The Arizona Secretary of State provides a tool that allows campaign finance data to be searched by a numer of criteria including candidate, party, PAC, independent expenditures, and contributor.
“The News Without Transparency” shows you what the news would look like without public access to information. Laws and regulations that force the government to make the data it has publicly available are absolutely vital, along with services that take that raw data and make it easy for reporters to write sentences like the ones we’ve redacted in the piece above. If you have an article you’d like us to put through the redaction machine, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.