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Tracking influence through campaign contributions, other data

By Chelsea Sheasley

What’s the best way to follow the money, especially in an election year? Joe Stephens, The Washington Post, Duff Wilson, Reuters, and Angie Moreschi, a former investigative reporter and now director of communications at James Hoyer Law Firm, shared the databases and documents that helped them in their latest investigations during their panel, Paying for Political Favor.

Stephens, who covered the Solyndra scandal, stressed that “these documents are ones that I’ve used over and over again,” in his career, from covering the environment and stimulus spending, to reporting on the presidential election, and state government.

Some of Stephens recommended documents & databases are:

  • SEC EDGAR for financial disclosure statements
  • White House visitors log (with caveats that it’s not always updated, more meetings are being held off site to avoid being shown on the log, etc)
  • GuideStar for 990 forms that tax-exempt organizations must file with the IRS
  • The Washington Post’s POTUS tracker for database of the president’s schedule
  • Your local mayor or governor's appointment calendar

Wilson’s latest investigation focused on lobbying efforts of the food and beverage industry, which he said has “never really been investigated. It’s a target-rich environment.”

Key websites Wilson identified as helpful for his investigation were:

Moreschi, who produces investigative videos for James Hoyer Law firm, dove into lobbying efforts by for-profit education colleges. Additional websites she recommended include:

Chelsea Sheasley is a graduate student at Boston University College of Communication.

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