To measure the impact of political consultants in presidential and congressional campaigns, the Center for Public Integrity analyzed 2003-2004 expenditures of the organizations that spend money on political campaigns.
These organizations, termed “committees” by the Federal Election Commission, exist for House, Senate and presidential candidates, as well as for political party and “527” organizations. Because they fall under Internal Revenue Service regulations, 527 groups file contribution and expenditure reports with the IRS. The others file reports with the FEC.
House, presidential, and party reports are filed electronically; their data tables were downloaded from the FEC Web site. House candidates who expect to raise or spend less than $50,000 for the whole cycle can choose not to file electronically and those paper filings were not included in the database.
Senate campaign and Senate party committees file reports on paper, so the information from these reports was typed into the database by Secure Paper Solutions of Fredericksburg, Va., an outside vendor.
In the 2004 election cycle, 527 committees had the choice of filing on paper or electronically. These filings were included in the database.
The Center targeted House and Senate candidates from the two major parties who participated in the general election. However, one filing from an Independent candidate was included because he won the election.
All reports are from the 2003-2004 election cycle (Jan. 1, 2003 through Dec. 31, 2004), the latest full cycle for which records were available. From these reports, the Center compiled a database of campaign expenditures.
Center researchers then began the process of identifying expenditures for consultants.
This identification proceeded in two, interrelated steps: