Friday, March 21, 2014

Sunshine from the Public Disclosure Commission

The person who asked me about campaign contributions to judges this morning didn't know that it was Sunshine Week, but I do, so I'll share what I learned about what's on the Public Disclosure Commission website.

PDC logo from website

The Public Disclosure Commission enforces the state's campaign finance laws. Candidates for state and local offices have to report who gives them money, how much, and where the donors live and work. Lobbyists also have to file reports.

The PDC Press Kit is a good place to start. It gives statistics for the 2012 campaigns and summarizes the key laws.

The Public Resources page includes "Money Maps," where you can contributions by county. For example, here's the map for Referendum 74 (marriage equality) in 2012:

"Money Map" showing more donations in R-74 more populous counties (King, Snohomish, Spokane)

  You can opt to see donations from outside the state, too.

"Money Map" showing contributions from other states. For example,
Coloradans donated $167,551 for and $1,575 against.

You can create maps for candidates as well as initiatives and referendums.

The PDC has searchable databases where you can look up who has donated to candidates and campaigns. You can filter by name, employer, and other fields. For instance, you can find employees of Boeing or Starbucks, musicians or plumbers.

I tried searching for state=NY and found some big donors: For example, PEPSICO gave $810,000 to Grocery Manufacturers Ass'n Against I-522 (that was the initiative for labeling foods with genetically modified ingredients), George Soros gave $335,000 to Citizens for Drug Policy Reform, Michael Bloomberg gave $250,000 to Washington United for Marriage. 

In short, there's a lot of data in there and you can slice it many different ways. The interface is not flashy, but if you are used to sorting and filtering in Excel, the functions will be familiar.

See our earlier post, FOIA in the Sunshine Week.

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