Sean Noble was a former congressional aide just starting as a political consultant when he was recruited to help run the Kochtopus — Charles and David Koch’s multi-layered political network. More »
Some tax-exempt groups underreported their political activities in 2010 to the IRS, ProPublica finds, using tactics that are being used to pour dark money into campaigns on an even larger scale this year. More »
Many have been detailing the vast sums being raised by the presidential candidates and the super PACs supporting them. But where are all those millions being spent? More »
Two federal court rulings in 2010 paved the way for the ascent of "super PACs," political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on political races, as long as they don't coordinate with a specific candidate. This app keeps track of where super PACs are spending and raising their cash to influence the presidential race.
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Proponents of tighter reins on political money worry that a Wisconsin ruling about the governor's recall campaign could carry seeds of another 'Citizens United.'
The IRS faces a number of hurdles before its new regulations for social welfare nonprofits can be finalized, including potential opposition from Congress.
Super PACs are required to identify their contributors, but some of them are funded entirely or mostly by social welfare nonprofits that don't have to do so. That leaves voters in the dark about where money is really coming from.
Judicial retention elections in Kansas have typically been apolitical and uncontested — until Kansans for Justice entered the fray earlier this month. Now state election overseers are grappling with a new kind of dark money.
An accidentally released court filing reveals how one company secretly gave money to a nonprofit that helped get favorable mining legislation passed.
The governor has called for closing a gap in the state’s campaign finance laws, but he’s taken far more through the loophole than his predecessors, much of it from real estate developers.
The agency has pushed back indefinitely a hearing on new regulations for social welfare nonprofits that spend money on politics.
The Senate could soon consider a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and states the ability to limit money in politics, possibly reversing the effect of recent Supreme Court rulings. But the amendment doesn’t appear to have the votes to pass.
Freedom Path was launched by backers of Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch and ran ads supporting Hatch and other Republicans in 2012. It said it suffered damages because the IRS flagged its application for extra scrutiny and disclosed its pending application to ProPublica.
Liberal spending via dark money groups and super PACs was relatively modest in 2012. But their spending has taken off this year in at least one state.
The Government Integrity Fund spent most of its money on election ads, despite IRS rules prohibiting a social welfare nonprofit from doing so.
Here are five takeaways ProPublica found from the documents released Wednesday by a House committee.
Kim Barker and Theo Meyer discuss the increasingly shadowy world of political spending, the power of the Koch brothers’ network, and what to expect in midterm races.
Obscure limited liability companies have ultimate say over the Koch network’s nonprofits, which spend hundreds of millions of dollars to advance conservative causes.
Sean Noble was a former congressional aide just starting as a political consultant when he was recruited to help run the Kochtopus — Charles and David Koch’s multi-layered political network.
A Reading Guide on the Billionaire Koch Brothers
The proposed regulations could dramatically limit how nonprofits spend money. But the proposals aren’t a done deal, and it’s not clear whether groups would comply.
The $26.4 million grant from Rove’s dark money giant, Crossroads GPS, to Americans for Tax Reform was supposed to be spent on social welfare and education. Instead, records show, at least $11.2 million of that grant money went to politics.
Two groups linked to the Koch brothers admit they did not properly disclose contributions for state ballot measures. One says it did so inadvertently, blaming its unfamiliarity with California’s rules.
In a sharply worded ruling, a federal judge in Montana ruled that documents found inside a Colorado meth house pointing to possible election law violations will not be returned to the couple claiming the papers were stolen from one of their cars. Instead, they'll remain with a grand jury.
Tax regulators recognize two related dark money groups, even though they appear to have made misleading statements on their applications for tax-exempt status.
The IRS’s Cincinnati office last year sent ProPublica the unapproved applications for several conservative groups.
If the IRS is not well-suited to investigate these “plain vanilla criminal cases,” the U.S. Department of Justice should, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said.
The 2012 Obama campaign set the bar for the use of voter data. The Republicans aren't interested in being beaten again.
The California consulting firm Russo, Marsh and Associates has tapped into Tea Party true believers, and made millions as a result.
A roundup of the most important stories on campaign finance, and the dark money groups that don’t have to report their donors.
A former Illinois congressional candidate joins forces with Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to challenge IRS oversight of social welfare nonprofits.
A big potential drawback to the convenience of absentee and mail voting: Studies show that ballots are rejected at a higher rate than for voters who brave the wait at polling places.
IRS files show that some of the biggest companies in the country provided more than a million dollars a decade ago to launch a Republican dark money group.
We've been collecting emails from political campaigns and tracking the variations. Here you can explore those emails.
Researchers say simply expanding voting hours and shortening ballots isn’t enough. The U.S. needs to overhaul how they decide to allocate resources on Election Day.
We’ve rounded up some of the best reporting on how the parties have tried to influence both congressional and state electoral maps — and, in most cases, gotten away with it — for political gain.
Little pieces of data about individual voters add up to a powerful big picture for state Democratic parties
From the campaign sign on your lawn to what you write in a letter to the editor, your political opinions are being recorded in party databases — and then shared in ways you might not expect.
Controversial Dark Money Group Among Five That Told IRS They Would Stay Out of Politics, Then Didn’t
Americans for Responsible Leadership, which California officials have accused of "campaign money laundering," promised the IRS it would not engage in elections, a confidential filing shows.
With control of the Senate at stake, liberals hit the streets and bought ads for a libertarian candidate who likely siphoned crucial votes away from the Republican challenger.
Because of dark money, we may never know. But recent campaign finance filings give us a better idea.
Crossroads GPS, which has spent tens of millions from secret donors on elections, told the IRS in its 2010 application that its efforts would focus on education, policy-making and research.
The elections saw a furor over voter ID laws. So what's next for the laws?
This fall, ProPublica set out to Free the Files, enlisting our readers to help us review political ad files logged with Federal Communications Commission. Here’s how we did it.
The agency’s new system to put political ad spending information online turned out to be deeply flawed.
A new look at what the Obama campaign did with its much-heralded data operation.
Answer: a record number of early and provisional ballots that’s squeezing the system.
Dealt early defeats in court, the laws’ actual impact on voters remains an open question
After spending months digging through the tens of thousands of documents the country's television stations uploaded as part of our Free the Files project, we look back on what we learned and how to make it better.
An analysis of political ad files in our Free the Files database found spending by dark money nonprofit Crossroads GPS and its affiliate super PAC rivaled spending by the Obama and Romney campaigns combined.
Although an unprecedented amount was spent by outside groups in an effort to influence the 2012 campaign, the candidates with the most super PAC funding were defeated Tuesday. Here's a look at how much outside groups spent per vote in a few of the notable races.
ProPublica and Frontline are putting checks written to Western Tradition Partnership online. Released under a court order last week, the records give a rare look inside the controversial dark money group.
All told, 880 people have helped review at least one file as part of our Free the Files initiative. But 10 people led the pack, collectively reviewing half of all the files reviewed.
Some key findings on campaign targeting from Time Magazine's interviews with Obama advisers.
Long lines, confusion, voter suppression, Sandy-related disruptions, a tie in electoral votes and more.
Join ProPublica’s campaign to shine a light on the hidden aspects of campaign finance by chronicling ad spending in Las Vegas, one of the nation’s most heavily blanketed cities.
In most states, you’re not allowed to show other people your marked ballot.
We want a better picture of who’s behind the Vegas ad blitz, which is why we’re declaring an Election Day Challenge here at ProPublica. The mission? To liberate Las Vegas.
In many states, voters will be asked to weigh in on a slew of measures and proposals, whether comprehensible or not.
More TV ads have been purchased in the race than in any other Senate contest in the country, including many paid for by outside money groups.
Bank records released under a court order show that Western Tradition Partnership's donors included an Oklahoma businessman, a Colorado builder and other dark money groups linked to Ron Paul.
Bank records released Friday by a Montana district court judge show that the wife of a key player for Western Tradition Partnership signed many of the group's checks. She runs a company that did work for candidates.
We've looked beyond the candidates' rhetoric — or lack thereof — to find out where they actually stand on climate change.
By the time the Internal Revenue Service discovers that a group has crossed the line from nonprofit promotion to politicking, many operators have boarded up shop and moved on.
Hundreds of millions of dollars spent on this election came from faceless donors. A TIME/ProPublica report on how mystery cash is changing American politics.
How the Koch brothers' Americans for Prosperity is attacking a cap-and-trade program in New Hampshire.
Western Tradition Partnership's alleged big donor said he had actually never heard of the group.
Boxes of records turned over to Montana authorities show that a top person from Western Tradition Partnership interacted with candidates and helped shape their election efforts, possibly violating laws that bar coordination between campaigns and outside groups.
It's a topic voters won't necessarily hear about – despite the long-lasting consequences.
We look at where the candidates stand on money in politics.
Political targeting companies are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be "anonymous" on the web.
Tonight, while Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are preparing their foreign policy talking points for the final presidential debate of the 2012 election, we’ll be joining a group of Ohio volunteers focused on uncovering political spending at home.
We've looked beyond the candidates' campaign rhetoric to see what actually separates them on Iran.
A nonprofit group that filed a lawsuit that led the Supreme Court to apply its Citizens United decision to states told the IRS that it wouldn't intervene in elections – after it already had.
ProPublica reported on Bill Owens’ trip to Taiwan earlier this year. Now his opponent is attacking him over the trip in a campaign ad.
Political campaigns use massive databases to target their constituents. ProPublica's Message Machine is beginning to find some answers on how they do it.
Our latest explainer video, on the storied history of money in politics.
A primer in the four-decade-long unraveling of campaign finance reform
Defend My Dividend calls itself a grassroots campaign to halt a dividend tax hike. But the group's ad buys are linked to trade groups for utilities and other dividend-paying companies.
In just two weeks, volunteers for our Free the Files project have liberated information on $294 million in political ad buys.
We’re going beyond the horse race and gathering the best stories out there on Congressman Ryan and his positions.
The FCC is finally requiring TV stations to upload political ad files online. Here's how to use them.
Free the Files is a new ProPublica news application tracking political ad filings from television stations in swing markets.
In our ever-expanding quest to Free the Files, ProPublica is teaming up with Huffington Post in Denver, Detroit, Miami and Washington, D.C. to unlock campaign spending.
It's not just voter-ID laws. Learn what else states are doing that has gotten heat.
In the seven days since werebooted Free The Files, nearly 350 people have “freed” a political ad contract from the Federal Communications Commission database, unlocking more than $160 million in ad spending by 325 groups in more than 30 swing markets.
New details emerge about the Government Integrity Fund, which has run ads attacking Sen. Sherrod Brown in the Ohio U.S. Senate race.
With the economy on the debate schedule tonight, we've rounded up some of the best coverage of the critical economic issues in the presidential election.
Romney released his 2011 tax return and other information recently. So what else is there to know?
Outside groups are spending millions of dollars hoping to influence political campaigns – but they're hard to track down. Detailed information about spending is locked in documents filed at TV stations across the country. Help us uncover this spending by reviewing documents.
An analysis of newly available TV station political ad files shows how groups that don’t have to report their donors played a major role in one race for an open U.S. Senate seat
Search political ad files published by the Federal Communications Commission.
Today, we’re rebooting Free the Files with a new tool to help uncover outside spending in the final days of the campaign.
Sheldon Adelson told Politico his company, Las Vegas Sands, is being targeted because of his political activity.
A former aide to Republican candidate Josh Mandel reportedly did work for the Government Integrity Fund.
Romney's private equity firm battled with brokers, also asked them to find healthy companies, not just turnarounds.
Documents show an Ohio lobbyist chairs an opaque group, the Government Integrity Fund, which has spent over $1 million on pro-GOP ads in the key Senate contest.
We lay out the questions raised by Romney's tax disclosures, and what we still don't know.
Federal rules that forbid employees of Wall Street firms from giving money to certain state officials running for federal office if the firms do business with that state helped knock New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie out of contention for a spot on the GOP ticket, according to the New York Post.
The political conventions are upon us, and with them a new flood of campaign emails. ProPublica debuts a new campaign emails Tumblr.
What's a 501(c)(4)? How do you cover a nonprofit whose address is a PO box? Can we stop the flood of dark money in politics? It's all in here.
Some politically oriented social-welfare nonprofits dodged ProPublica’s requests for IRS filings or refused to provide them as required
Akin clings to Senate nomination, as his party scrambles to limit damage.
ProPublica reporter Kim Barker will be your guide to all things campaign finance this Thursday on Reddit from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A look at several advertisements put out by nonprofits that reported no election spending during the same time period.
How we calculated the numbers in our Dark Money application.
Some tax-exempt groups underreported their political activities in 2010 to the IRS, ProPublica finds, using tactics that are being used to pour dark money into campaigns on an even larger scale this year.
Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, a group backed by the Koch brothers, have put almost $60 million so far into ads to influence the presidential race, an analysis of new spending estimates shows.
How exactly do campaigns define and track voters? How much do they really know about us? And what privacy issues does it raise? Join us for a live discussion of campaign ads in the 2012 election this Friday on Google Plus.
The request comes via a campaign ad on the popular music site.
A new mobile app puts public information about voters at your fingertips.
The new system is a big step forward for those seeking to understand campaign ad spending, but it’s far from perfect.
Las Vegas Sands has insisted for more than a year that it needed approval from Macau authorities to turn over documents to federal investigators and a former employee. Now, the company owned by the biggest single GOP donor acknowledges that many of the documents have been in the U.S. all along.
Dark money groups are using sophisticated online targeting tactics. Voters may never know they’re being targeted.
An interactive chart showing the share of all contributions given by the top ten donors to each of the 12 largest super PACs.
Today we're opening up the political campaign emails we have collected from our readers.
In just a few years, the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands created a gambling empire in Macau that made him one of the world’s richest men. Now, Sheldon Adelson’s business methods are under expanding scrutiny by federal and Nevada investigators.
The National Association of Broadcasters, an industry group representing television stations around the country, is asking a court to block the implementation of a new rule that will put political ad information online before it goes into effect next month.
Romney's campaign is using the same ad targeting tactics as airlines and shoe stores.
Over the objection of broadcasters, the Office of Management and Budget OKs measure to put political ad information on the Internet.
A House committee drops legislation that would have blocked an FCC rule to put political ad data online.
On Saturday the Obama campaign sent an email to supporters mentioning Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul who has donated millions to Republican super PACs.
Broadcasters file a petition with the FCC to water down a new political ad disclosure rule.
Last Monday, the Obama campaign sent out an email about a dinner with the President at Sarah Jessica Parker's house this coming Thursday. We received 7 versions of it.
The personal information you gave Microsoft or Yahoo may be used to target you with online ads.
Language in appropriations bill would block funding for an FCC rule to put political ad data online.
Political campaigns are using increasingly sophisticated methods to target messages to voters, methods that are not at all transparent. We need your help to uncover and understand them.
Under a new Federal Communications Commission rule, political ad data showing election spending could be posted online as early as July — or much later.
The National Association of Broadcasters argue that the FCC's new rule requiring the posting of political ad data is "arbitrary" and "capricious."
A woman in upstate New York is surprised to find a contribution to the Wisconsin governor's campaign on her credit card.
The FCC vote on Friday mandating broadcaster disclosure comes with caveats.
Media giants are scrambling to water down a proposed FCC rule on disclosure that will be voted on Friday.
Students checking public files at TV stations in Cleveland encountered unaffordable fees and camera-shy employees.
Corporations that own some of the country’s biggest news outlets are fighting an FCC measure to post political ad data on the Internet.
The returns for nonprofit Crossroads GPS are the first glimpse of how much the group, which has spent millions on political ads, raised in 2010 and 2011.
Julius Genachowski criticizes TV stations for trying to keep political ad data off the Internet.
TV stations are taking their lobbying efforts directly to the FCC, which is expected to vote later this month on whether public data about what ads are bought, who bought them and for how much must be posted online.
New FEC filings show 324 super PACs, including 159 with money and one named for the infamous fundraising committee embroiled in the Watergate scandal
TV stations have objected to an FCC proposal requiring them to put information about the political ads they broadcast online and a commission vote on the issue is set for April 27.
We need Pennsylvanians to help us “Free the Files” on political ads ahead of the April 24 primary.
Whether you work for a news organization or not, we’re asking for help posting public data detailing what super PACs are spending on political ads. Here’s how to do it.
Unlike other candidates, Paul’s campaign reports the smallest expenses, even the 12 cents at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
So far, top super PACs and presidential candidates have spent more than $306 million in ways that hint at potential coordination. In some cases, this could violate FEC rules.
President's Obama campaign is collecting detailed data about its supporters. The campaign just won't talk about it.
Local TV stations hold key information on political ads — accessible only by visiting the station. We need people in Wisconsin to help.
Many have been detailing the vast sums being raised by the presidential candidates and the super PACs supporting them. But where are all those millions being spent?
Our Tangled Web graphic shows the 200 biggest recipients of expenditure money from the five major presidential campaigns (Gingrich, Obama, Paul, Romney and Santorum), as well as from major super PACs, from around the middle of 2011 through February, 2012.
TV stations are fighting efforts to put their public data on political advertisements online. So we’re doing it for them.
Businesses may be able to use undisclosed, unlimited donations to save on their taxes.
For a brief moment a decade ago, it was Republicans who wanted disclosure of anonymous political donations that Democrats now decry.
How different are a campaign's emails to different voters? President Obama's re-election campaign tried at least six different messages sent on behalf of campaign deputy manager Julianna Smoot in an email blast last week.
Campaigns are increasingly tailoring their messages — and their funding requests — using massive databases of personal information about potential voters.
Panels and parties at last week's Conservative Political Action Conference provided a window into how the pros are raising unlimited, undisclosed money this election cycle.
Super PAC filings for 2011 reveal few surprises in identifying contributors: Unions give to Democrats, while businesses back Republicans. Much less is known about the social-welfare nonprofits that might play a big role in the election.
Super PACs with similar-sounding names, satirical motives or undeclared aims are setting the stage for voter confusion in the months ahead. A super PAC called “a SuperPAC”? No kidding.
Jon Huntsman's divergence on some core Republican issues has given him the labels of "moderate" and "second-tier." But the former ambassador to China has also earned conservative praise when it comes to guns and taxes.
The best reading on former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum to help you cut through the horse-race coverage and get oriented.
Can an ad that's "fully coordinated" with a candidate count as uncoordinated spending by a supposedly independent group? The FEC commissioners bickered but couldn't collectively decide.
The Supreme Court made it legal for corporations and unions to spend unlimited money on elections so long as they don't 'coordinate' with candidates. So why does everyone seem to be coordinating?
A Florida man has flooded the FEC with filings for a new kind of political action committee, showing how easy it is to create them and how few rules there are.
More money is coming into U.S. politics, and much of it is flowing in through new and barely regulated groups.
In a new age of more dollars and less disclosure, the FEC’s ongoing stalemate over key areas of campaign finance gives more aggressive political players a chance to push the limits.
Want a feel for what The Hermanator Experience™ is all about? Start here.
Both Stephen Colbert—who's pretending to support a fake candidate, Rick Parry—and supporters of the real Rick Perry have started nonprofit groups that can channel unlimited donations to super PACs with minimal disclosure.
President Obama has promised to focus on jobs. But what has he done to create jobs so far? Here’s a look at his record.
The best reading on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to help you cut through the horse-race coverage and get oriented.
In our first candidate guide on President Obama, we examine his record on the economy and cite some of the best reading on how his initiatives to create jobs, help homeowners, and shore up the financial system have fared thus far.
Newt Gingrich is struggling to make a political comeback after his spectacular fall a decade ago. Here's some of the best coverage of his political career and record.
Many of the 2012 presidential hopefuls have close ties to Super PACs, new political action committees that can raise unlimited money in support of a candidate, but are supposed to operate independently.
Here are our guides to the best reading on the presidential candidates. We've picked through the day-to-day coverage to help give you a sense of the candidates' actual record.
Beyond RomneyCare: A rundown of some of the best reading on Mitt Romney's background and record.
A rundown of the stories you need to read about Rep. Michele Bachmann. She has held the title of Tea Party favorite thus far in the campaign, but what about her actual record?
Ron Paul’s tiny-government ideals have become increasingly relevant. Here's our guide to some of the best reading on the Texas congressman.