A Practical Guide To Tracking Political Donations in the US

In my journey building my own civic tech company, I have spent what feels like thousands of hours looking at every political website and app in existence. I’ve looked deeply into who donates to politicians, how much they donate and how campaigns spend that money. We’ve included a lot of this information in the ChangeRoots app, and if you’re into getting your hands on the data yourself, here is a practical guide that will hopefully make your life easier. 

OpenSecrets

OpenSecrets is by far my favorite site to find out how much candidates are raising, who is giving them money and how that money is being spent.

What I Like: 

  • Design: The website is easily searchable and they at least try to do some data visualization
  • Data: They have crunched huge amounts of data and made it easy to go down rabbit holes
  • Experience: It’s operated by a well-funded non-profit that’s been doing this work for decades
  • Fairly non-partisan: they seem to report more on Republican dark money behavior than Democrats 

Snapshot:

Goods Unite Us

Goods Unite Us is a progressive-leaning mobile app that shows you what candidates companies and their employees donate to. 

What I like: 

  • Search: It’s easy to search
  • Focused: It provides information about company political giving only
  • Design: It has a very readable design.

NYTimes Guide To How Political Donations Work

Back in 2012 the New York Times creative a pretty good interactive guide that shows all of the different ways you can donate in American politics. 

What I like: If you want to learn about money in politics, this guide shows you the various mechanisms people and corporations transparently or secretly fund elections. 

Snapshot:

ProPublica Election Databot

ProPublica does amazing investigative journalism to expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions. They’ve created a site that ingests and displays public campaign finance information that almost works great.

What I like:

  • Data: They analyze lots of data in a cool way
  • Design: Their interface is readable and looks good

Snapshot:

FEC.gov

The government’s website tracking political campaign data has improved dramatically in the last few years. You can actually look up details on donors, candidates and campaign spending relatively easy with their new interface. 

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