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Data Snacks: Political Contributions 101


October 15. That’s the day third-quarter Federal campaign financial reports are due. The Federal Election Commission, at FEC.gov, makes public these required reports for all federal candidates.

Skimming through the reports can tell you quite a bit about what that candidate stands for. Sometimes it tips you to the campaign’s strategy. Typically, the large and early contributions tend to come from the groups the candidate associates with. Lawyers get money from lawyer groups. Doctors from doctors. Ethnic and religious affiliates can also be early donors. It all makes sense. You start out with the people who know you best and move on to garnering more local support.


This year, the federal reports are due on Friday the 13th of October because the 15th falls on Sunday. The third quarter ended September 30th .


States, counties, cities, and towns also have campaign finance schedules that usually track the federal deadlines. AZ state reports are due October 16th. Most of these governments have portals where you can research the donations, income and spending of candidates, PACs, and committees. None of the portals are easy to navigate. At the state level, Arizona has SeeTheMoneyAZ.gov. It’s run by the Secretary of State and paid for by the voter-approved Clean Elections Act, a legacy left to us by the activists of 1998.


OpenSecrets.org is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a website where you can readily lookup fundraising by federal and state contests. They also attempt to account for dark money contributions to elections.


HOW donations are collected is a contrast of the root differences between Democrats and Republicans.


ActBlue was created in 2004 as a conduit (an official FEC term) for collecting donations for Democrats and progressives running for office. As a simple to use, and simple to re-use, mechanism, it is a stunning success in fundraising small donations across the country. ActBlue is a Carey PAC, non-profit and, as a surprise to many, not affiliated with the Democratic Party.


Fifteen years later, in 2019, a small group of Republicans created WinRed which they touted to be a fundraising tool for their candidates to match the success of ActBlue. WinRed was soon co-opted by the 45th president as his all-but-mandatory fundraising mechanism for the GOP nationwide. WinRed is a for-profit corporation with the bulk of the profit going to one of the original founders, a former Trump staffer. The approach is to require its use and feed the profit to friends. In April 2023, WinRed proposed a fee increase after it was widely reported that they had lost an estimated $6 million. The increase, a flat transaction fee that penalizes small donors, is not popular. WinRed has raised fees in the past, then lowered them after protests. Not clear what will happen here, but we can guess.


There is a second conservative for-profit fundraising platform called Anedot. Anedot touts that they are centrist, but a quick glance at their clientele shows they are anything but. It includes Turning Point, Boebert, Gaetz and tellingly – the No Labels party.


P.S. AZLD3 Democrats’ finances are reported openly at our monthly meetings and available online at SeeTheMoneyAZ.gov.


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