IRE/NICAR Tipsheet #73, Money and Politics

Sara Fritz

How to connect campaign contributions to committee assignments, lawmakers and policy.

1. Start wither either a single contributor whose influence you want to trace, or identify the big issues coming up in Congress, the interest groups most likely to be involved and the positions they will be advocating. In 1993, the list of groups involved in lobbying on major issues will include:
Health Care Reform-physicians, nurses, hospitals, insurance companies, employer groups, drug companies, malpractice lawyers and elderly groups including the American Medical Association (202-728-7400); American Medical Student Association (703-620-6600); American Nurses Association (202-544-4444); American Osteopathic Association (202-682-6000); Association of Trial Lawyers of America (202-965-3500); Health Insurance Association of America (202-223-7780); International Chiropractors Association (703-528-5000), and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (202-857-1134).
North America Free Trade Agreement-labor unions and big employers including the AFL-CIO (Rex Hardesty, 637-5010); United Steelworkers (202-639-6929), and the International Association of Machinists (202-857-5200).

2. Before you go to the Federal Election Commission to obtain a list ofcontributions made by these groups, first check with public interest groups that might be monitoring these contributions. Sometimes, they will have done the work for you. They include:Center for Responsive Politics (202-857-0044), Common Cause (202-833-1200), Advocacy Institute (202-659-8475) and Public Citizen (202-293-9142).

3. At FEC, don't just look at PAC contributions. Ask for individual contributions by occupations, employer and, in some cases, zip code. Also look for contributions under the same names recorded in different ways and the names of relatives. Contact Mike Dickerson or Kent Cooper at 202-219-4155.

4. Don't stop with contributions. Also check for other ways that an interest group may have helpedmembers of Congress: junkets listed on the members financial disclosure reports (obtainable from the public records office in the House,202-225-1300, and Senate, 202-224-0762); corporate planes put at the disposal of the party organizations (check party filings at FEC); and inquire as to whether the contributor has hosted any receptions that might have benefited members of Congress or whether the contributor may have hired a relative or close staffer of a member of Congress.

5. To find a line between money and influence, interview all parties involved and search congressional records for evidence that the recipients of these contributions actually did something on behalf of his contributors. These records includes committee hearing transcripts,available either from the committee of the document rooms in the House, 202-225-3456, and Senate, 202-224-7860; committee offices; floor proceedings in Congressional Record; lists of bills and amendments offered by the members, which can be obtained from the House or Senate libraries, or letters written to agencies by members of Congress, which are kept on file at most agencies.

6. Contact individual contributor directly. Ask why they contributed, who collected the money from them , what were they told about the purpose of the contribution. These people are often more forthcoming than their lobbyists in Washington and they will often admit they were trying to buy something.

7. Other possible sources of inside information include committee staffers, former aides to the member of Congress involved, opposition lobbyists and public interest groups involved in the issue.