Database to Search: Contributions Received Contributions Given Expenditures
Our data comes from the Missouri Ethics Commission that maintains databases of campaign expenditures and contributions by political committees that are required to register with the MEC and file financial disclosure reports. But, methods special interests have found to avoid dislosure requirements.
If you're interested in finding out from where a public official is getting money, select from the following options at the bottom of the page, in this order:
The PAC category actually combines Missouri PACs with the few out-of-state and federal PACs that have filed reports with Missouri.
Except for legislators and statewide office holders, MDN does provde a drop-down for candidates. The reason is the staggering number would make the drop-down list unmanageable.
Of the nearly 11,000 candidate committees registered with the MEC, more than 3,000 filed campaign financial reports in 2018. If you looking for a particular candidate's reporters, it would be far quicker to simply select the Seek function and then type in the name of the candidate whose financial activities you wish to see.
The Seek category lets you do a text-search of MDN's database for the recipient, donor or spender you've chosen to search. See the Seek Searches section below for more information.
For statewide office holders and legislators, this drop-down list will contain the name and office of every official in the Office Year you selected.
However, a PAC, party or campaign will be listed ONLY if it actually filed a campaign finance report covered by one of the databases you chose in the search year you selected.
Also, for non-candidate committees, a shortened names will be displayed in the list.
From the list, type a letter to move the selection to the first entry starting with that letter. For the PAC list that can be very long, typing a letter can help you better focus the list.
Once you have selected a particular official, the contributions received or given by that official/PAC automatically will be displayed. All of the contributions reported by that official's campaign committee(s) will be displayed at the top. Some officials have more than one campaign committee that were created during their time in office. MDN's application will include all of those committees.
Some officials have such a large number of contributions that it can take a few seconds for the results to be displayed.
The search-in year is for the year in which the financial activity occured, NOT when the report was filed. For example, financial activity in December might not be reported until the mid-April quarterly filing report of the subsequent year.
In that case, that financial disclosure will be displayed in year in which it was reported to have occured, not the year it was reported.
However, in a few cases we have discovered financial transaction dates two or more years earlier or years in the future! Without a definitively way to determine the correct date, we've included these reports in the year in which the report filed (although the displayed transaction date will NOT be changed).
In other words, a search for "republican" for contributor will return records for any contributor with the word "REPUBLICAN" anywhere in the name and regardless whether the letters are in upper or lower case.
You must enter at least three characters for the contributor or recipient (one of those two fields can be empty. There is a limit of 500 records that will be displayed from this search, so you might want to narrow your search entry as much as possible.
There is one particular advantage to using the seek search feature. When political candidates file their contributions received from political committees, they do not always identify the proper name of the contributor (See the note on Political Committees below). The name may have been misspelled, words abbreviated or simply an incorrect name entered for the name of a contributing committee.
Compounding the problem is that the MEC reports do not include the unique MEC ID for a committee that is listed the contributor. The only MEC ID that is included in a financial report is the ID of the committee filing the report (contributions that the committee got, contributions that the committee gave or the committee's expenditures).
With the Seek function, you can enter various alternatives for possible ways a committee was identified as a donor in contribution-received reports.
Obviously, this full-text seek feature is not particularly sophisticated. If you'd like more or expanded options, let us know.
The items will be displayed in the order you choose by clicking one of the label buttons at the top of the display for each item of a report. Each financial disclosure item will be displayed in seven parts:
The letter B indicates the donor is a business and the letter the letter I indicates the donor is an individual.
However, for expenditure reports, the second letter will be either P or I. The letter I indicates the expense has been incurred, but not yet paid. The letter P indicates an expenditure that has been paid.
That will pop up a display of every field in MEC's database for that contribution. The number of fields displayed and the labels will vary depending on whether the item is a contribution received, contribution made or an expense. For a received contribution, the separate entries are:
MDN's databases of contribution reports are constructed from information filed by campaign committees with the Missouri Ethics Commission (MEC). MEC has digital records going back to 2011.
Each filing includes the amount contributed, the source of the contribution and the date of the contribution expended. For a contribution by an individual (as opposed to a committee or business, the report will include the contributor's employer (if any) and occupation.
The reports are filed by candidate committees and political action committees that make contributions to candidates. MEC aggregates the reports into three large databases that are used by MDN (depending on your Search selection:
There are nine types of committees -- Campaign, Candidate, Debt Service, Exempt, Exploratory, Non-committee, Out of State, Political Action (PAC) and Party.
By 2017, More than 11,000 committees had registered with MEC at some point. But in any one year, only a fraction of those committees report any financial activity. In the 2016 election year, only 2,198 committees reported to the MEC financial activity. Most are candidate campaign committees and PACs. Those two committee types constituted 88 percent of all the campaign finance committees reporting financial activity in 2016.
Many of those 11,000+ committees have been terminated, but remain on MEC's list of registered committees. In earlier years, some of those committees simply had not yet been established.
MDN maintains an updated database of all those committees. But a committee will not be displayed as a search option if there were no financial reports filed by the committee in the search year for the database you are searching (contributions received, contributions given or expenditures).
In the Category selection drop down, we have listed only PACs, Party and Campaign committees. There seems to be a bit of inconsistency for organizations supporting ballot issues. Some are registered as a PAC, but others as campaign organizations.
We get the list of candidate committees and a unique ID for each committee from a central file of MEC. That file goes back to 2011 (and maybe earlier than that). However, the actual name used by a specific committee may have changed over the years.
For example, MEC's central list of party committees includes "Laclede County Republican Central Committee" and that's the name in 2017 financial reports. But in 2011, financial reports under that party committee's MEC ID were filed under the name "Republican Central Committee Laclede County."
Also, the drop-down list of names will have abbreviations to address the extremely names of some committees. For example, "Republican" will be replaced with "GOP" and "Missouri " will be replaced with "MO ".
Finally, you'll find some names are in all caps while others are in upper and lower case. We do not attempt change the capitalization. However, the category list will be in alphabetical order, regardless of case.
We have not included Candidate committees because of the huge number of these committee that reported financial transactions -- particularly in even-numbered years. In 2016, more than 1,000 Candidate committees filed financial reports.You always can use the full-search Seek category option to pull financial activities for a specific committee.
For the Contributions Received selection option, a consistent identification of political committee doors represents a degree of complexity.
MEC's campaign finance reports include the unique MEC ID for the committee filing the report, but not the ID for a committee making the contribution, even if it is a registered committee.
In reviewing these reports, MDN has found a significant degree of inconsistency as to how committee donors are identified.
For example, the name "MO Bev PAC" that shows up as a campaign contributor, appears to be the same as the registered PAC "MISSOURI BEVERAGE PAC."
Contributing to the problem the number of separate PACS that appear to have been created by the same individual.
Finally, the names of some PACs would consume a full sentence. In order simplify our drop down list of PACs, we've shortened those names. However, the display name for the search results will be the full registered name.
And, if you hover your cursor over the name in the drop down list, there'll be a pop up showing the full name registered with the MEC.
The most significant missing information from our site involves the growth of what critics charge is "dark money." This includes organizations exempt from Missouri campaign-finance disclosure requirements that get large amounts of money from donors that they bundle into large contributions to a candidate.
The candidate must disclose the contribution and the bundling organization. But the actual sources of the money remains secret.
For example, in 2016 Seals for Truth contributed nearly #2 million to the gubernatorial campaign of Eric Greitens.
However, that organization got all it's money from another organization that was created under a federal law that allowed the names of donors to be kept secret. So, we don't know if a single Navy Seal was the source of the Seals for Truth funds that flowed into Greitens' campaign.
Contributing to this problem is the growing number of organizations that independently finance efforts for a candidate without even making a contribution to the candidate.
News reports have identified specific groups that effectively are campaign orginizations for a candidate or a ballot issue, but because they are not tied to a campaign, have been exempt from reporting requirements.
Recently, however, Missouri's Ethics Commission has taken steps to require these kind organizations to register as political committees, requiring disclosure of their contributors and expenditures.
Further, not every financial activity involving a candidate or ballot issue will be in the financial-disclosure databases. Individuals are not required to file reports on contributions they gave, no matter how large. However, a candidate committee must disclose information for any contribution received that exceeds $100.
Loans are not included in our reports because MEC does not have a seperate online database for loans.
Finally, Missouri Digital News owes a great thanks to the Missouri Ethics Commission for their assistance that makes this application possible.