Campaign Finance and Transparency
Campaign finance disclosure is an essential public accountability mechanism. Providing public access to this kind of information about the flow of money in politics empowers oversight and accountability in the government decision-making process. While many municipalities release some kind of information about campaign finance online, there are great differences in the completeness of those releases and what formats are used to share them. Examining the current landscape of municipal campaign finance disclosure highlights opportunities for improvements, reveals the political levers that affect the openness of this data, and shows the kinds of accountability and context that can result from its release.
Sunlight Research and Blogs on Campaign Finance Data
2016 State Integrity Update — In 2015, Sunlight partnered with Global Integrity to produce the State Integrity Index, a rundown of transparency and accountability in every state. That report contained extensive analysis of state campaign finance laws.
In 2016, Sunlight worked on an update to the Index, focusing on changes to state campaign finance laws in the preceding year. Those changes—in the categories of limits, oversight, and disclosure—take the form of new bills or developments in enforcement. View the state-by-state run down online here. Examining state legislation is helpful in hashing out which laws are applicable in cities, but it can get a little complicated. For more on the relationships between state and local government, check out this Sunlight blog post.
Campaign Finance Data Research — This editable research document looks at everything from how cities release campaign finance data to the stories that the data can empower.
The Landscape of Municipal Campaign Finance Data — The amount of campaign finance data that cities release, and how they release it, varies widely.
Campaign Finance Data Recommendations
Municipal Campaign Finance Data Roadmap — We created a Municipal Campaign Finance Data Guidebook to help local policymakers and advocates create stronger campaign finance disclosure. You can read more about it on our blog and read the guidebook here.
Evaluating Municipal Campaign Finance Data
How do municipalities measure up to standards for campaign finance disclosure? A close look at three cities — Albuquerque, Alexandria, and Oakland — shows what they’re doing well and where their campaign finance disclosure can improve.
The Impact of Opening Up Campaign Finance Data
From apps that make the information easier to sift through to news stories that investigate how campaign finance impacts the political process, opening up campaign finance data can have many impacts. Learn more below and on our blog.
AxisPhilly’s The Money Maps — This site visualizes campaign contributions to council members in Philadelphia.
The New York Times Campaign Finance API — This API helps developers and journalists create apps that include “a snapshot of campaign finance data for a particular ZIP code.”
The Texas Tribune Campaign Finance Analyzer — This website allows users to easily sort through state and local campaign finance data from Texas.
AxisPhilly – “The Money Maps: Tracing campaign $$$ given to Council” — Reporters mapped out Philadelphia campaign finance information to show changes over time in how money flows into council campaigns.
San Diego Union-Tribune – “Follow money in San Diego mayor’s race” — This page compiles campaign finance information for candidates in San Diego’s mayoral race.
Star Tribune – “Minneapolis mayor’s race lags in disclosing campaign contributions” — A reporter compared timelines for disclosing campaign contributions and found timeliness to be lacking in Minneapolis compared to several other cities.
WAMU – “Major Campaign Donors Score Hefty City Subsidies” — This series found that developers who contributed the most money to Washington, D.C., city council members’ campaigns received most of the subsidies for development.