The voting booth is private, but the cash drawer is public

The news that Herman Cain has suspended his presidential campaign must be a blow to Scott, in ZIP code 55356, who donated $1,000 to Cain last September. Or to Don in 55304, who gave the same amount in May. On the other hand, the news must have brought cheer to the homes of Tom in 55347, who donated $1,250 to Newt Gingrich last May, and of Jody in 55359, who gave Gingrich’s campaign $300 in August.

You think Facebook is addictive? Not compared to the Federal Election Commission’s website. If the tobacco companies could have laced cigarettes with info from www.fec.gov, they wouldn’t have needed menthol to help get people hooked.

David, 55438, gave President Obama’s campaign $2,000 last June. Christopher, 55430, gave Obama $50 in July and $50 more in September. Likewise, Eleanor in 55408 contributed $10, $10, $100 and $20 to Obama, all in September.

Does this seem invasive? Don’t answer yet; there’s more. The available information includes donors’ last names, cities of residence and occupations. It’s all right there. The website’s features include interactive maps for the presidential and congressional campaigns; users can zero in on Minnesota or any other state to see who gave what to whom. Here’s what the Minnesota map of presidential contributions looks like:

fecmap.JPG

A click on one of those circles takes the user to a list of individual contributors. If you’re one of them, it’s sure to make you uncomfortable. If not, it’s likely to blow a hole in your productivity for the day.

Now, all this information is public, and properly so. Those who give money to political campaigns know, or should know, that the information is out there. What might take them by surprise is how easy it all is to find. On file at the county courthouse is one thing; available at a click of a mouse, from anywhere, is another.

If you didn’t know this before, now you do. Use this power for good.

  • jon

    Reminds me of when I found out that MN posts its court records online.

    Amazing what you can find out about your co-workers based on their court records (and which ones you just don’t want to push to far.)

    Also fun for telling people how much they paid in speeding tickets!

  • Jon

    What’s really fascinating is comparing the “under $200” and “over $2000” donation numbers for the different candidates. It really gives a sense of who is behind each candidate.

    So Mitt Romney has $3,468,125 in under $200 donations and $21,423,226 in over $2000 donations – lots of big money.

    Michele Bachmann has $4,827,635 in small donations and $376,701 in big donations.

  • kennedy

    I’d suggest taking these numbers with a grain of salt. I looked at the information for Amy Klobuchar. The summary shows $354,870 in “Other” income. The detailed list adds up to less than $400. I’m probably missing something, but it’s not obvious to me.

  • Tyler

    If money is speech, and companies are people, why aren’t we seeing business and PAC contributions to candidates on this webpage?

  • kennedy

    I was able to view PAC and business contributions. For example, in 2007 Outback Steakhouse gave $10,000 to Norm Coleman and the Washington Women for Choice PAC gave $10,000 to Al Franken.