From the archives: campaign finance coverage

By Sommer Brugal


Archives Politics
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Campaign finance regulations are a regular part of any political conversation, especially leading up to elections. New rules have been implemented over the years, sometimes providing legal loopholes that can make it difficult, if not impossible, for voters to stay informed. The Investigative Reporting Workshop is helping, with stories that explore, explain and document the ever-changing landscape of campaign finance.

Most recently, an April 2018 story analyzed the financial connections between a far-right gun group, one of the biggest political donors of the current election cycle, and former Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas.

In 2014, we collaborated with NPR affiliate WAMU to investigate how some members of the District of Columbia Council had raked in millions of dollars in campaign contributions from contractors. Our story detailed the bidding process for contracts exceeding $1 million and exposed the correlation between the number of contracts awarded and campaign contributions to some council members from those contractors.

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The Workshop also spent two years looking into the influence wielded by businessmen Charles and David Koch. The brothers own Koch Industries, one of the largest privately held corporations in the world. In two articles published in 2013, our analysis detailed the scope of the brothers’ influence and the money spent “to further the giant corporation’s federal and state policy agenda.” New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer highlighted one of the study’s key findings, explaining how the Koch brothers worked to slow government action on climate change because it negatively affected their bottom line.

• Koch millions spread influence through nonprofits, colleges

• Koch: 1996 marks beginning of national efforts 

In 2012, Big Sky, Big Money: Money, politics and intrigue in Montana mirror the national election scene, looked into the influence of money in politics, the donors behind the dollars and how the contributions influenced that year’s election.

The collaboration between the Workshop, FRONTLINE and American Public Media’s Marketplace produced a number of articles:

• Documents found in meth house bare inner workings of “dark money,” exposed “possible illegal ‘coordination’” between a nonprofit and candidates in 2008 and 2010.

Secret campaign donations — so what? detailed the potential risks and problems secret campaign donations can cause, providing points of view from those support and oppose anonymous donations.

In 2010, a Workshop article explained the outdated campaign disclosure laws in place at the time, arguing that while the Federal Election Commission “has been trying to adapt to the computer age for nearly two decades,” more timely reporting requirements are needed.