Tracking who gives what to NC lawmakers

Posted April 20, 2015 2:30 p.m. EDT
Updated June 18, 2015 10:24 a.m. EDT

— Starting Monday, you'll see something slightly different when you read stories from our @NCCapitol team.

Hover overClick on the name of any sitting state lawmaker mentioned in our coverage, and you'll instantly see the top donors for his or her most recent campaign for office. You can also see how much they collected from contributors during the campaign overall.

Republican House Speaker Tim Moore, for example, pulled in more than $500,000 in donations in the last election cycle from donors such as Nationwide Insurance and the North Carolina Farm Bureau. Democratic House leader Larry Hall, meanwhile, received more than $600,000 from the House Democratic Caucus, his own personal coffers and other contributors. Incidentally, the North Carolina Academy of Trial Lawyers contributed $10,000 to both lawmakers.

The project was inspired by Greenhouse, a free browser plug-in developed last year by Nick Rubin – then 16 years old – to track campaign finance in the U.S. Congress.

We're calling our tool Donor Reveal, and it's intended to shed a little more light on the influence of money in North Carolina politics.

The code itself is available on GitHub, a Web-based code repository.

Data for the application comes from the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that collects, organizes and freely distributes campaign finance information for all 50 states. Although our system pulls and displays only the top five donors, you can visit the organization's site for dozens of other options for slicing and dicing the data.

It's important to note that the institute's data may combine contributions from both primaries and elections, as well as "in-kind" contributions for services. That means you'll often see contributions far above the $5,100 State Board of Elections' per-election cycle limit, which went into effect Jan. 1.

Aside from that, be aware there are many other ways money can flow into elections, both in state and national races.

The new feature is part of a broader push to give North Carolina citizens more tools to learn about their elected leaders, both in the General Assembly and Congress. We launched another piece of this project, the Find your Lawmakers application, in February.

It won't be the last addition to @NCCapitol's suite of tools, applications and regular features designed to hold government accountable and provide more context to our political reporting, so expect additional functionality in the coming months.

We're particularly interested in hearing from you about what you'd like to see from us in the future. Share your thoughts by contacting me here, and let us know about the job we're doing so far.

In the meantime, have fun exploring the data alongside all our regular coverage, and stay tuned for more.