What to look for: What politicians and political committees has the organization and its leadership contributed money to? Does the organization have a political action committee (PAC)? Does the organization and its leadership contribute to federal, state, and local elections?

Where to find it: Opensecrets.org, The Federal Election Commission (FEC) database, your city/state’s local campaign finance database.

Campaign finance research is an integral part of power research. There are many different ways powerful corporations and people use money to influence the outcome of elections. Sometimes, this research can have a lot of jargon associated with it. If you are running up against terms you don’t understand, check out OpenSecrets’ glossary. 

When conducting campaign finance research, you’ll have to use different databases depending on what kind of political donations you are investigating. For federal level donations, use opensecrets.org and the FEC’s database. For state level donations, use opensecrets.org or your state’s campaign finance database (which you can usually find by googling “your state” and “campaign finance search”.) For municipal level donations, use your city or county’s campaign finance database. It’s important to note that different cities and states have different campaign finance disclosure requirements, so some of these databases might have lots of information and be user-friendly to navigate, while others might not. 

Here are some useful guides to doing campaign finance research using these different databases: 

4. Philanthropic Relationships