Where do you get the campaign finance records?
Candidates file their disclosure reports with the Illinois State Board of Elections, and we obtain the records from the Board. The Board's website is www.elections.il.gov, and it has a host of other useful information on candidate filings, local election authorities, and such.
Why should I use your website, when the State Board of Elections has the same records, and more?
The Board's website posts records exactly as the candidates submit them. If candidates file electronically, the Board posts the records electronically; if the candidate files on paper, the Board posts PDFs. We process the data to make it easier to use. We keyboard paper forms, we standardize the names of the biggest donors, and we code all contributors by interest group. We post records by the office that the candidate holds or is seeking. We simplify the process of following the money. Our site is designed for people who do not come to the data knowing exactly what they want, but are still interested in learning more about campaign finance.
Where can I learn about candidates for federal office?
We focus on candidates for statewide, legislative, judicial and some local offices in Illinois, all of whom file reports with the State Board of Elections. The Federal Elections Commission is the ultimate campaign finance repository for candidates for US House and US Senate (and US president). To view those reports, visit the FEC at www.fec.gov. Other sites with federal data include opensecrets.org and CQ Money Line.
How do I find a particular donor?
If you know the name of the donor, type their name in the "last name" field. Do not include their first name in the last name field; if you know the first name, you might enter that in the first name field, but leaving the first name field blank will return all donors with that last name. If the donor is a company, a union, or an association, put their name in the "last name" field. Note that the field is not case-sensitive, and that the database will return any contributors whose names include what you enter. Typing "smith" in a field will return giving by people named Smith, or Smithson, or Blacksmith; it will also return giving by companies, unions, and association whose name includes the phrase "smith".
The Illinois Education Association is the largest PAC donor in the state; why can't I find them in the database?
The Sunshine Database standardizes the names of the largest donors to make it easier to find all of their contributions. But if you don't search under the name as it has been standardized, you won't find it. In general, don't search for the word "Illinois", or any of its abbreviations; use keywords that are less common. In this case, try "Education". The Illinois Education Association is listed as the IL Education Assn.
I found some contributions on your site that I could not find through the Illinois State Board of Elections' website. Why is that?
The Sunshine Database is based on the semi-annual reports filed with the State Board of Elections, which keeps the official records of campaign disclosure. If you find a contribution listed here but cannot find it through the State Board of Elections' website, there could be several explanations:
- The Sunshine Database standardizes the names of donors, so that even though a candidate might report a contribution from the IEA or I.E.A. or IPACE or the Illinois Education Association, the Sunshine Database will list the contribution as from the IL Education Assn. To verify a contribution through the State Board of Elections website, we recommend searching the State Board's reports by committee, date of receipt, and amount.
- The Sunshine Database is updated twice a year. It is possible that a political committee filed an amended disclosure report changing the date, amount, or donor's name related to a contribution. In that instance, the Sunshine Database would not reflect the more up-to-date information on the State Board of Elections' website.
How can I find out more about a particular donor?
Profiles of many donors are available through the Sunshine Database. Click here for a complete list.
Who is included in the Sunshine Database?
The Sunshine Database includes incumbents and candidates for state legislative, statewide executive, and appellate judicial offices.
How do I find profiles of particular officials?
The Sunshine Database has campaign finance profiles of every member of the General Assembly, all of the statewide Constitutional Officers, and recently-elected Appellate and Supreme Court justices. For sitting public officials, including incumbents not seeking re-election or whose terms have not expired, go to the list that includes their office; for example, state representatives are included in the list titled Illinois House. For candidates, click on candidate search.
Why can't I find profiles of Illionis' current Supreme Court justices?
The Sunshine Database draws upon campaign finance reports. Rule 67 of the Supreme Court forbids sitting judges to raise political money personally, or to authorize others to raise money on their behalf, except during a period beginning a year before an election and ending 90 days after the election. The only time a sitting Supreme Court justice would raise or spend political funds is if they were appointed to the bench to fill a vacancy and are also seeking a term in their own right. Consequently, it is rare indeed that sitting jurists have active campaign committees. Appellate Court justices and judges of the Circuit Court may authorize committees to raise and spend political funds on their behalf when seeking higher office. Note that incumbent jurists, including those of the Supreme Court, may have political funds in the bank, though by and large they may not raise additional funds, nor spend funds they already have.
How do I find information for previous elections?
The candidate search feature includes options for multiple election cycles, from 2001 to the present. You may search for contributions to a particular candidate or official or from a particular contributor, through more than one two-year election cycle by highlighting the cycles you are interested in.
How do I find former statewide officials?
Former public officials are best found through the candidate search. Search through the relevant election cycle for the incumbent office holder in any of the offices available in the database.
What's in the Chicago Sunshine Database?
Campaign records on current or recent Aldermen, or candidates for Aldermen in all of Chicago's 50 wards, together with data on the citywide candidates, and the most active ward organizations.
Why do some candidates show no receipts or expenditures?
Some candidates did not form campaign committees.
How does the Chicago Sunshine Database relate to the other database?
Both track all receipts and expenditures of candidates, and by standardizing the names and coding donors and vendors, we hope to make the data easier to understand than the raw reports filed with the State Board of Elections. If you want to see if a donor to a Chicago candidate also gave to a state candidate, you should ask both databases separately.
What are Statements of Economic Interest?
Candidates for state and local office in Illinois are required to file Statements of Economic Interest with the Illinois Secretary of State. The form, required by the state Constitution, asks questions about the filers' personal finances so that the public knows where to look for conflicts between what's good for them and what's good for their constituents. The form is filed on paper and is commonly completed by hand; the Secretary of State posts PDFs of the Statements to their website here: http://www.ilsos.gov/economicinterest/Search
If they're filed on paper, how can I search them on your website?
We transcribe the paper filings into an electronic format and post them to our site in a searchable database. We also tie them into the candidate profiles, so you can see them based on the office they hold or are seeking.
How can I be sure that what you transcribed is accurate?
We try to be as accurate as possible, and since some of the people on our staff have pretty bad handwriting themselves, we think we're pretty good at decoding the many forms of scrawl. But if you want to verify the accuracy of our postings, go the ICPR candidate profile page and download the PDF yourself and compare. If you find a discrepancy, please get in touch with us at David at ilcampaign dot org.
What does the Statement of Economic Interest tell me?
In theory, it tells you where the filer has economic interests. In practice, the form doesn't tell you much. There are 8 questions, and most filers answer with some variation on "N/A" to all 8 questions. The federal Personal Financial Disclosure form, which candidates for US House, US Senate, and US President must complete, is much better, asking more detailed questions with fewer implied exemptions. Nonetheless, the Statement of Economic Interest is what we have to work with, and so that's what we deliver to you. For more on the Statement of Economic Interest, see the Economic Interst Issues Page.