IRE/NICAR Tipsheet No. 611


Uncovering crimes with campaign data
Joe Stephens, Kansas City Star

Tips for uncovering "Bundled" contributions:

Search for multiple contributors who work for the same company

Concentrate primarily on person who gave maximum donation -- $1,00 a shot for harmony gifts on federal campaigns.

Look for others contributors with the same surname. Big contributors often use the name of wives, husbands, children and parents to evade the $1,000 limit on "hard money" contributions to federal campaigns.

Cold-call the spouse and the children. Often the spouse has no idea he (or, more commonly, she) contributed and will say so before thinking. The children may be babes in arms with no money of their own. In either case, federal law was broken.

Once you have identified a company that is "bundling" contributions, not the most-common date listed for contributions. Search the contributions database for other donations in the same amount made on those dates in the same ZIP code areas.

Be on the lookout for dirty and misspellings. Search for surname and company names using partial strings. I found Aqua-Leisure Industries spelled at least four different ways. Company executive Paul Houris also gave under the name Paul Houris.

Don't stop with the candidate's campaign committee. Also look for contributions to a so-called "compliance committee." A compliance committee is used to pay lawyers and accountants to insure the campaign operate legally. By giving to a compliance committee, donors can effectively double the size of their contribution. Also look for gifts to party committees and PACs.

Use corporate annual reports and filings with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission to uncover the names of additional contributors who did not list their employer in campaign records. SEC documents are available on the World Wide Wed at www.sec.gov.

Use a CD ROM phone book, such as ProCD's Select Phone, to identify neighbors of contributors who also gave.

Use a commercial on-line service such as Autotrak (954-781-5221 for information) to uncover additional family members, business partners and companies with interlocking directorships.

If the company you are targeting is local , head to their parking lot and write down license plate numbers, Then run the numbers through state records to identify other potential contributors.

Look for occupations whose holders could not easily afford $1,000 contributions. Dole's biggest contributors included secretaries, warehouse workers, a receptionist, a janitor, a taxi driver, a maid and a "houseman."

When calling contributors, start with the spouses or relative of lowly paid workers. If the relative is a registered Democrat and is listed as having given $1,00 to a Republican candidate, that's tall the better.