As the Center for Public Integrity reported earlier this month, the Federal Election Commission must be notified when a political committee wants to raise and spend unlimited sums of money it collects from individuals. But the FEC database makes it difficult to search and pinpoint which committees are doing it.
The FEC issued the notification requirement after a federal appeals court’s landmark March ruling in SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission. The court’s decision removed any limits on the amount of money that political committees can raise from individuals, as long as they do not coordinate their spending with candidates for public office or give any money to those candidates directly.
Since the FEC’s advisory ruling in July, dozens of political committees have filed so-called Form 1s with the agency to indicate that they want to operate in this fashion. But, while researchers can go one-by-one through registered independent committees and search to see whether they have filed these forms, they are hardly easy to find.
On the FEC website, each committee has a separate page listing all reports that committee has submitted in recent years. Form 1 filings show up on those lasts as “MISCELLANEOUS REPORT TO FEC” or “STATEMENT OF ORGANIZATION.”
But those headers also encompass many other types of filings. The only way to know if a committee has filed a Form 1 is to search through often-lengthy .PDF files by hand. With 1,154 independent expenditure committees already in the database and new ones being added, it is a time-consuming process.
Judith Ingram, an FEC spokeswoman, told the Center she was “not aware of any plans to change the searchability of Statements of Organization.”
ABOUT THE DATA
What: Notification of FEC by political committees electing to raise unlimited amounts of cash for political spending, in light of the SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission ruling
Availability: Online, not searchable
Usability: Databases make information available in .PDF forms, but not in a sortable or searchable manner.
The Data Mine is a joint project of the Center for Public Integrity and the Sunlight Foundation.