Following the campaign money just got a whole lot easier
‘Illinois Sunshine’ website helps to track political money like a hound
Published: Friday, Aug. 7, 2015 2:55 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 7, 2015 3:53 p.m. CDT
By Madeleine Doubek, Reboot Illinois
It just got a whole lot easier for citizens to find and follow the money in Illinois politics and government.
The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform unveiled its new, automated Illinois Sunshine campaign finance website,www.illinoissunshine.org, that covers all major campaign donations and spending, including those of Super PACs and other types of campaign groups.
Susan Garrett, chairwoman of the board of the non-profit Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, called the new site cutting-edge, innovative and ahead of other, more nationally focused campaign finance sites.
What makes the new campaign spending website better?
Why should you care?
Campaign data, shared directly from the Illinois State Board of Elections website, now will be updated daily each morning.
The site collects, tallies and shares complete campaign data from 1994, when the state elections board first began digitizing data, to the present.
As campaigns, candidates and committees update reports – often at the last minute – new contributions and spending will be added to old reports to present a full and complete picture of donations and spending.
The site features several charts and infographics that give citizens a look at things like spending levels in all Illinois campaigns over time, top earners in the last 30 days, committees with the highest current amounts, and more.
The site features a simple search box and explanations for the different types of filings and schedules as well as types of candidates, campaigns, independent and non-independent expenditures committees and more to aid citizens who might not immerse themselves in the world of campaign finance all the time.
Each campaign or committee has its own full page with simple facts about contributions, spending, major donors and more.
A quick visit to the home page now shows you Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign committee has the most money on hand in the state right now at $19.6 million. In second place with nearly $9 million on hand is IllinoisGO, or Illinoisans for Growth and Opportunity, an independent expenditure committee, or Super PAC, designed to support candidates who will work to resolve Illinois fiscal challenges.
Citizens for Rauner has collected more than $89 million, the most of any committee ever in state history, while the Democratic Party of Illinois, led by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, has collected the second highest amount since records were digitized in 1994 with more than $67 million.
All that information and far more can be found with a few mouse clicks at the new website.
The website and curation was created by a civic tech start-up firm called DataMade, which is based at 1871, Chicago’s tech incubator. Major funding for the effort came from entrepreneur and philanthropist J.B. Pritzker.
Why should citizens use and care about the new website?
“Measurement is the key to accountability,” said 1871 CEO Howard Tullman, noting the importance of transparency in business, politics and government.
DataMade CEO Derek Eder noted the website is one of the first powerful tools to look at state and local campaign finance information.
Alden Loury, a senior policy associate with the Better Government Association, said citizens “have an obligation to monitor your government so join me.”
Indeed, following the money, who gives it, who gets it, who supports whom, can shed new light on the darkest corners of campaigns, politics and government.
It will help engaged, active citizens make better decisions about whom they should support and about whom they should watch more closely.