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HOME / CAMPAIGN FINANCE REPORTS AND DATA / GUIDE TO RESEARCHING PUBLIC RECORDS

Your Guide to Researching Public Records


This document is a publication on the information available in the Public Records Office of the Federal Election Commission.


What's available? How do I find it?


Public Records Office, Federal Election Commission


999 E Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20463
202-694-1120 / 800-424-9530 / FAX 202-501-0693
FAXLINE 202-501-3413
http://www.fec.gov
pubrec@fec.gov

Hours: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Monday - Friday

How to Obtain Information

All documents in the Public Records office are open for public inspection and copying. Documents may be viewed and copied from microfilm or optical image machines. Certain documents filed in the current election cycle are also available in paper copy. Computer indexes are used to locate the reports and cross reference information. Visitors to the office are not asked to sign in or otherwise identify themselves. The office is a fully accessible facility located at 999 E St., NW Washington, DC 20463. The office may be contacted by dialing 1-800/424-9530, option #2 (toll free) or 202/694-1120. Fax: 202/501-0693. E-mail: pubrec@fec.gov.

Information is also available 24 hours a day via the Commission's Web site, http://www.fec.gov, and through Faxline, an automated document faxing system. To access the FEC Faxline system, dial 202/501-3413 and follow the voice prompts.

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Cost

The fee is $.05 per page for paper and microfilm copies of reports. Many computer printouts and publications are free-of-charge. A listing of all fees is available. Payment may be made by cash, check, American Express, Master Card or Visa. In the office, payment is made after all copies are made. This eliminates the need for rolls of nickels or dimes. Prepayment is required when ordering documents by mail. Mail requests are sent by first class U.S. mail. Requesters who arrange for shipment by a private delivery service will have their package placed in the office's pick-up bin.

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State Offices

Researchers may also obtain campaign finance reports from state records offices. The Disclosure Division annually publishes the Combined Federal/State Disclosure and Election Directory. This compilation of state addresses, phone numbers, web addresses, and other contact information for both federal and state disclosure offices is available in print from the Public Records Office or the Commission's Web site. Many of these offices also participate in the Commission's State Filing Waiver Program and provide electronic access to federal campaign finance reports via an Internet connection to the Commission's Web site at a public terminal.


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Personal Computer

The FEC website has available digital images of campaign finance reports of PACs, political parties, Presidential, U.S. Senate, and U.S. House campaigns. To view the reports, go to the FEC website at http://www.fec.gov and click on "Campaign Finanace Disclosure Portal". Also available on the website are financial summary data and downloadable databases, which are updated periodically and can be downloaded for use with spreadsheets and other software programs.

Restrictions on the Use of FEC Disclosure Documents

Any information copied from such reports or statements may not be sold or used by any person for the purpose of soliciting contributions or for commercial purposes, other than using the name and address of any political committee to solicit contributions from such committee. 52 U.S.C. §30111(a)(4). (Sale and Use of FEC Information from FEC Reports)

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FEC Public Records Available to You on...

Candidates

The Commission compiles nationwide statistics on federal campaigns to help researchers understand how particular candidates compare with national/state trends and rankings. For further research, indexes and computerized search systems are available.

Lists Available To Research Candidates:

  • Names and addresses of Presidential, Senate and House candidates.
  • Names and addresses of candidates and their authorized committees.
  • Names and addresses of candidates running in the current election cycle.
  • Candidates with figures of their receipts, disbursements and cash on hand for the current election cycle.
  • Recent registrations of candidate committees.

Checklist To Research A Specific Candidate:

  • List of all documents filed by the candidate and authorized campaign committee (s).
  • List of all documents filed by the campaign with a cross reference to reports filed by other committees which disclose PAC or party contributions, independent expenditures (for or against) and communication costs.
  • Summary financial figures on total receipts, disbursements, contributions (individuals, PAC, party), cash on hand, and debts owed to and by the campaign.
  • Itemized list of individual contributions to the campaign.
  • FEC enforcement actions/litigation relating to the campaign.
  • FEC audits of the campaign.
  • FEC advisory opinions issued to the campaign.
  • Campaign finance reports from 1972 to the present filed by the candidate and any authorized committees, itemizing receipts and disbursements.
  • Personal Financial Reports filed by Presidential challengers, 1980 to present.
  • Review our Combined Federal/State Disclosure and Election Directory for a listing of each state office which maintains candidate reports and other disclosures.

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PACs, Party and Other Committees

The Commission prepares summary financial figures on PACs, party committees and others, to provide a perspective on various groupings and rankings of the committees. Staff is also available to explain and assist in further researching a specific committee.
Lists Available to Research Committees:

  • All PACs and party committees, with addresses, treasurer names and ID numbers, arranged alphabetically or by state.
  • PACs arranged alphabetically by sponsoring organization.
  • PACRONYMS: the acronyms, abbreviations, initials and common names of PACs.
  • PACs with figures of their receipts, disbursements and cash on hand for the current election cycle.
  • PACs ranked by receipts.
  • Newly registered committees in the current election cycle.
  • Multicandidate committees with their date of qualification.
  • Computer search capability for PAC names when only a key word in the title or treasurer's name is known.
  • Checklist To Research A Specific Committee:
  • List of all documents filed by the committee.
  • Summary financial figures on total receipts, disbursements, contributions to federal committees, cash on hand and debts and obligations owed to and by the committee.
  • Itemized list of individual contributions to the committee.
  • Contributions made to candidates by the committee, including independent expenditures for or against candidates.
  • FEC enforcement actions/litigation relating to the committee.
  • FEC audits of the committee.
  • FEC advisory opinions issued to the committee.
  • Campaign finance reports from 1972 to the present filed by the committee, itemizing receipts and disbursements.
  • Computer search system of persons, corporations, labor organizations and others contributing to non-federal accounts of the political committees.

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Individual Contributors

The Commission maintains a database of individuals who have made contributions to political committees. For 1977 to 1988, contributions of $500 or more were entered. For 1989 to the present, contributions of $200 or more are included. Data on individual contributors includes the following:

  • Name
  • Occupation or principal place of business
  • City
  • State
  • Zip code
  • Date of transaction
  • Amount of contribution
  • Name of committee disclosing the contribution

The following are examples of the various types of contributor searches that may be conducted:

  • Search an individual contributor by their last and/or first name.
  • Search an individual contributor by their principal place of business or occupation.
  • Search an individual contributor by their city, and/or state and/or zip code.
  • Search by the date of the contribution or by the amount of the contribution.
  • Search for a contribution by the committee receiving the contribution.

Individual contributor searches may be performed one at a time or in multiple Combinations to narrow the actual search. Example: All contributions to a particular committee on a specific date or all contributions to a candidate from contributors who list the same principal place of business.

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Public Records on Commission Activity

A wide range of Commission documents can be readily reviewed or copied. Checklist To Research Commission Actions:

  • Sunshine Notices
  • Open Meeting Agendas and Documents for upcoming and past meetings
  • Minutes of past open meetings and audio tape transcripts
  • Federal Register notices
  • Recent and Ongoing Rulemakings: public comments, hearing documents and Explanation and Justification of Regulations
  • Advisory Opinion Requests, public comments, and final Advisory Opinions issued
    Files of closed Alternative Dispute Resolution cases, Administrative Fines cases, and Audit Reports
  • Commission Memorandums, Bulletins, and Directives.
  • FEC Record Newsletters
  • FEC Press Releases
  • Closed Enforcement Cases
  • Year End Supplement to the FEC Record, an index of the year's articles appearing in the monthly newsletter
  • Litigation Status Report indicating recent court activity
  • Selected Court Case Abstracts, a publication summarizing the important points of court cases involving the Commission
  • Annual Report, a publication containing summaries of Commission actions, chronology of events, listing of Federal Register notices, outline of new or revised regulations, legislative recommendations, and statistics on Commission operations
  • Chronological file of selected news clips on the FEC and campaign finance. Other non-governmental reference works and studies on federal campaign financing are also available
  • Additional references and resources are available in the FEC Law Library, a federal depository library with an extensive collection of campaign finance related information

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