The super PAC data received blog post treatment on Tuesday at The Roanoke Times, in a “Blue Ridge Caucus” item by Michael Sluss. Nothing fancy, just a few paragraphs with links to VPAP:
Virginia is one of the most competitive political battlegrounds on the map in this presidential election year, which is why you can’t have your television on for long without seeing a campaign ad.
But the battle isn’t being waged by the candidates alone. Super PACs, which can raise unlimited funds from individual and corporate donors, also are playing heavily in Virginia and flooding the airwaves with ads. But when it comes to getting into the wallets of wealthy Virginia donors, conservative super PACs are clobbering their liberal counterparts.
Through the end of June, conservative super PACs are far surpassing liberal groups when it comes to raising money from Virginians, according to new data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics and the Virginia Public Access Project. All eight of the federal super PACs that have raised at least $100,000 from Virginia donors support conservative or Republican causes.
Those include American Crossroads, the group co-founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove, and Restore our Future, a super PAC supporting GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Each has raised more than $700,000 from Virginia donors.
The post closed out with graphs on a few of the more generous donors, and a quick mention of how a Democratic super PAC is lagging in raising money in Virginia.
To varying degrees the early coverage from the Post, the Times-Dispatch and The Roanoke Times showed that there’s some useful information out there—but there is more work to be done.
For starters, the data can be tweaked to provide additional insights. It’s interesting to note the big donors from your area, but it would also be helpful to look at which particular sectors of the commonwealth’s economy are giving to whom (VPAP breaks the donation numbers down by occupation and industry).
It also would be of service to show how much of it is flowing back into Virginia. VPAP notes on its website that it has a project coming in that vein, an interactive map to show which super PACs are making buys here and how much they are spending on political ads in each market.
Hopefully, that also will include a look at how non-profit 501(c)(4) groups—which, unlike super PACs, don’t have to say where their cash comes from—are driving political spending this election cycle. As ProPublica’s Kim Barker noted on Monday, a pair of these non-profits are now outspending all super PACs combined in the presidential cycle:
Two conservative nonprofits, Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, have poured almost $60 million into TV ads to influence the presidential race so far, outgunning all super PACs put together, new spending estimates show.
These nonprofits, also known as 501(c)(4)s or c4s for their section of the tax code, don’t have to disclose their donors to the public.
The two nonprofits had outspent each of the other types of outside spending groups in this election cycle, including political parties, unions, trade associations and political action committees, a ProPublica analysis of data provided by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, or CMAG, found.
The data collection and analysis that underpins this sort of work is nearly impossible for traditional newsrooms to do from scratch these days—but when the heavy lifting is done by watchdog organizations, reporters have a real opportunity to build upon and localize it. A couple commonwealth newsrooms have started that process here, but there’s a chance to offer more to Virginia readers.