Fueling Investigative Reporting for 2014 Elections
As we enter the 2014 Midterm Election season, investigative reporters and other journalists will need to sniff out the connections and influences that political donors have on candidates and the prominence of various issues, as well as on the public's awareness and knowledge of a variety of hot-button issues.
This resource page points journalists toward online resources, such as FollowTheMoney.org to compare political donor influence across states and election cycles and across levels of government. Trace the connection between political money and issues being debated in campaigns — issues including fracking, implementation of health-care reforms, and privatization of public resources — using the resources you'll find here.
The National Institute on Money in State Politics hosted this Specialized Reporting Institute focusing on relationships among political candidates, donors and issues. The workshop, held in August in Missoula, Montana, was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
SRI Participant Joe Yerardi Wins San Diego Press Club Awards for coverage of campaign contributions. Congratulations, Joe Yerardi!
Resources from the SRI
A presentation by IRE's Denise Malan, Bulletproofing Your Data Stories, guides journalists in planning, verifying and analyzing data-based stories.
A presentation by Ben Wieder, of the Center for Public Integrity, Who's Buying the Statehouse?, guides journalists in tracking and analyzing donations to candidates and funding of issue ads.
Key Web Resources
Follow the Money gives political reporters across the country a free investigative reporting tool that can add depth and power to elections reporting. With more than a decade of comprehensive, verifiable, primary source political-donor information from all 50 states, reporters can analyze donating trends to reveal strategic giving designed to influence policy outcomes. Also on the website:
- Resources: A list of Money in Politics organizations where journalists can turn for help, whether it’s the legal or ethical implications of a situation
- Disclosure Agencies: A list of government disclosure agencies on both the state and federal level
The Itemizer, a website run by Derek Williams, a reporter and educator who is partially funded by the Knight Foundation. Also on this website, you can find the most recent campaign finance filings from the Federal Election Commission and link to them. While the link defaults to the most recent filings (like today’s), you can plug any date into the schedule.
Political Ad Resources
The FCC's Station Profiles page provides a general link to search for political advertisement purchases on television.
PACs and Super-PACs
Resources for Reporting on Super PACs: Resources gathered for an earlier SRI on Super PACs.
What Happens AFTER the Election?
The resources listed below address what all that political campaign money buys. What legislation is being promoted? Who is sponsoring bills on issues near and dear to donors' hearts? Follow the money trail into the halls of Congress to find out.
Maplight: A tool to follow federal funding.
The Sunlight Foundation has a wide range of tools to help journalists track political ads, lobbyists and others trying to influence politics. The website also has programs that allow people to track legislation, as well as popular buzzwords used in Congress.
Money in Politics: Investigating Campaign Finance in Your State and Nationally, originally webcast on Sept. 10, 2014, will help you identify key donors to candidates and party committees in your state or region and analyze giving trends. Learn to compare the fundraising successes, failures and trends of candidates in your area and analyze giving by industry to reveal strategic giving patterns, regionally, locally or nationally.
Election 2012 Reporting: Understanding Opinion Polls: Created for the 2012 election cycle, this Webinar is worth a new look. Learn to read, understand and interpret political polling data to improve your reporting on the upcoming election.
How to Keep Misinformation from Spreading: Many political campaigns thrive on misinformation, and research shows that misinformation can be difficult to correct. Do your part to prevent the spread of misinformation — whether deliberate or not — and improve the accuracy of your political reporting.
How to Work with Campaign Finance Data: Learn to untangle the post-Citizens United world of campaign finance, as the amount of money flowing into campaigns grows and figuring out the source becomes increasingly challenging.
Political Fact-Checking: Tips and Tricks for the 2012 Election: PolitiFact's Bill Adair discusses best practices in political fact-checking in this Webinar, originally broadcast during the 2012 election season.
Understanding and Interpreting Polls: Learn to dig into the survey data and see how the numbers measure up. In this course, you will gain a better understanding of how polls are conducted, what to look for in the methodology and how to determine the legitimacy of a poll.
The National Institute on Money in State Politics Training
The National Institute on Money in State Politics offers free, hands-on training to anyone who is interested in learning how to use our new website and others for computer assisted reporting. The organization will do Webinars for one person or a group of people as well. To learn more, contact Eve Byron or 406-449-2480.