By The Sunlight Foundation
The 2016 election cycle is well underway and political hopefuls on the presidential and congressional level are kicking their fundraising into high gear — and Sunlight’s Real-Time Campaign Finance tracker can help you follow the money.
Real-Time allows anyone to search, sort, filter and get alerts for campaign finance reports the minute they land at the Federal Election Commission.
To get started quickly, take a look at the overview pages, which will give you a simple snapshot of the money influencing the 2016 elections. This section provides handy fundraising and spending totals for a variety of political groups, from super PACs to candidate committees to parties. But the true value lies in digging into the data.
You can sign up to get notified when a particular committee files — or whenever something new is reported in a particular race. You can see itemized contributions and spending; filter independent expenditures to get the latest info; or download bulk files showing all the contributions, spending or independent expenditures made to or by a candidate or committee since Jan. 1.
Below we’ll highlight some of the cool features of our Real-Time Campaign Finance tracker, including presidential fundraising, outside money and more.
To help White House watchers tracking the millions of dollars at play in next year’s election, we’ve added a collection of political committees supporting known, and likely, presidential candidates. The new page groups all the campaign vehicles of the major contenders in one place, with links to summaries of the groups’ latest financial activity.
To provide as complete a picture as possible of the presidential landscape, we also list super PACs with the candidate they are likely to support in addition to their official presidential committee and leadership PAC, if available. (However, it’s important to note that a super PAC may not legally coordinate any of its spending or campaign strategy with a federal candidate). We have also included political entities that don’t register at the FEC: To get technical, these include 527 political groups, which make financial disclosures to the IRS, and 501(c)(4) nonprofit organizations, often called dark money groups because they are not required to reveal their donors.
Many candidates are already raising and spending money like a presidential frontrunner, so visit the presidential fundraising page and see which White House hopeful is winning the money race.
Outside money is playing a larger role than ever before. That’s why we’ve included an overview page that breaks down all outside spending by tone (positive or negative), by type of committee, by race and by party preference. Just want the list of top outside spenders? It’s one click away. These pages are easy ways to get a bird’s eye view of third-party groups like super PACs and dark money organizations.
You can also check our feed of up-to-the-minute independent expenditure filings to analyze the latest outside spending.
Big super PACs are big players in today’s political climate. Want a list of the ones that have poured the most money into this election cycle? We got you covered. This page takes a look at their role in greater detail, categorizing their spending by political preference. (This is an editorial judgment that we make here at Sunlight based on committees’ spending patterns.) Simply click on a committee’s name to get the details on its contributions, disbursements and independent expenditures.
Dark money groups are entities — typically 501(c)(4)s, but sometimes corporations, LLCs or individuals — that haven’t registered as political groups with the FEC because they do not consider politics to be their “primary purpose.” As such, these groups aren’t required to report their donors, but do report their independent expenditures. The information we have on them can be found here.
As the name implies, our Real-Time Campaign Finance tracker is the most updated source of campaign finance information, so check back frequently to monitor the filings as they hit the FEC — you never know when you’ll find that next story.
One disclaimer: We track Senate filings by summary — including the National Republican Senatorial Campaign and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee — but those dribble in pretty late, because, as readers of this blog know, senators and Senate candidates have thus far exempted themselves from the 21st century when it comes to filing campaign finance reports.
There you have it, a quick overview of Sunlight’s Real-Time Campaign Finance tracker. We highly encourage you to dig deep into these data; if you’re up for it, download the bulk files, too. So, when that next filing deadline rolls around, look to Sunlight’s Real-Time Campaign Finance tracker for the latest campaign finance data.
The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.
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