The Secret to Using OpenSecrets
How to NOT erroneously accuse noncorporate candidates of being bought.
Do you want to know if an incumbent candidate takes corporate money? Go to OpenSecrets.org.
But don’t make the mistake of so many eager beavers. Rather, take an extra second to look at the correct chart.
The Important Tip
You must find the chart that separates individual donations from PAC donations.
Remember, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) collects contributor data, including one’s occupation or employer. This data allows dollars from individuals to be lumped together with PAC dollars, in order to report the political donations made from within a particular industry.
However, industry dollars are not useful to our purpose. We want to see whether or not a particular candidate accepts corporate PAC money. Let’s view the OpenSecrets profile of Rep. Ro Khanna (D), as an example to study.
At first glance, progressive voters might gasp in horror to see that Rep. Ro Khanna’s 2022 campaign has already accepted $558,159 from the Securities and Investment industry, as well as $93,128 from Alphabet Inc (formerly Google).
But wait! Do not pass judgement yet.
Scroll down and read some more. You’ll learn that all the Securities and Investment contributions came from individuals, not from the corporations that employ them. It’s the same with Alphabet contributions. They were made by people who happen to work at Alphabet.
In fact, Rep. Ro Khanna accepts no corporate PAC donations.
To verify further, click on the “Contributors” tab, where you can examine the Top 20-100 contributors to Khanna’s campaign. Still no PAC donations. Now check the various election cycles. Still no PAC donations.
Rep. Ro Khanna is “corporate-clean” as a whistle!
A Simple Way to Find This Info
There’s a simple way to find the contributions profile for any incumbent candidate. Type the following key words into a search engine:
“candidate name opensecrets.” (Type the actual candidate name.)
The first search result will usually be the OpenSecrets “campaign finance summary” for that candidate.
But sorry, no. OpenSecrets.org is unhelpful on candidates who have not yet been elected to office. :-(
One Final Caveat
I have one final caveat for using OpenSecrets.org. Do not mistakenly think a small corporate PAC donation is insignificant. It may be serving as a small, innocent-looking, token promise of big future political and financial favors.