The Illinois State Board of Elections web site is packed with data on contributions to state and local candidates and on how those candidates spend their money. So we thought that CU-CitizenAccess.org would offer a quick tutorial in how to find that information yourself.
First, go to the State Board’s Web site at
http://www.elections.il.gov/ as shown in Figure-1.
Move your cursor towards the top left and click on “Contributions Search — All Contributions” to get going. When you click on that, you will get this screen as show in Figure-2.
When you get that screen, move the cursor to the “Last or Only Name” line and click on the downward arrow next to “Starts with” as show in Figure-3. You will get a choice of “Matches,” “Starts With,” and “Contains.”
You want to pick “Contains” because that means you only need to know part of a name to get a result. You can do that with the “First Name” line too as shown in Figure-4.
In this case, we put in the name of Donald Dodds, who is frequent contributor to political campaigns. But you can choose any name for this example in any particular state or local race and see what you get. If you want see some very large contributions pick a big donor from the governor’s race.
To see candidates for Congress or for the President you will need to go to the Federal Elections Commission
http://www.fec.gov/pindex.shtml or the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group http://www.opensecrets.org/ that has been collecting and analyzing federal election data for decades.
We hit the search button and get back the result shown in Figure-5. You can see there were 28 contributions listed that totaled $11,575.
This is a first step in beginning to look up contributors. If you go back to the selection screen as shown in Figure-2, you see you can narrow your search criteria by many categories, ranging from city or state or occupation or year and so on.
Checking out contributions and expenditures by candidates
There are many ways to look up candidates and seeing who contributed to the candidate and how the candidate has spent the contributions. But one easy way is to use the search box on the home page of the State Board of Elections.
We return to the home page and type in the last name of Don Gerard, the current mayor of city of Champaign, who is running for re-election, as shown in Figure-6.
We see we get the choice of only Don Gerard because there is no one else with “Gerard” in their name running for office. We click on “Don Gerard” and we get a choice of ways to look at contributions as shown in Figure-8.
We could check only contributions by and to Don Gerard, but we also want to see expenditures.
The best way to do that is to look at filings by political committees since candidates run their campaigns by committee. So we click on the “Candidates with political committees for: Don Gerard” and we get the result shown in Figure-9.
We click on Don Gerard and we get the screen shown in Figure-10, where we see the detail on the candidate and the name of his committee. It shows his committee is “Friends of Don Gerard.”
We click on Friend of Don Gerard and now we have a series of filings to look at as shown in Figure-11. Let’s pick the quarterly filing near the top.
When we pick the quarterly filing we get more detail on contributions and expenditures during the time period of July 1, 2014 through September 30, 2014, as shown in Figure-12.
The list goes on for six pages that you can scroll through. After doing that you can return to the previous page and choose the itemized expenditures as show in Figure-14.
By choosing “Itemized Expenditures” you can get a list of what the committee has used the contributions for as shown in Figure-15.
As you can see, the committee has spent money on a consultant, a fundraiser, banners, and a donation to another candidate. However, that is the first of eight pages of expenditures so there will be more scrolling to do.
Again, this is just a quick start to using the Board of Elections web site. There is much more data to mine and more ways to mine when you have the time.
See the link below to download a copy of this guide.
How to track contributions to state and local candidates.pdf