Federal Campaign Statements
Campaign statements for federal offices - the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives and the President - are filed with the Federal Election Commission. Campaign statements for political parties and independent political action committees (PACs) also are filed with the FEC.
In addition, "527 committees," which are groups involved in political activities but that operate independently of a particular candidate or political party, file their statements (called a form 8872) with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. The groups file with the IRS because of their tax-exempt status, and "527" refers the the section of the federal tax code dealing with tax-exempt political groups.
These 527 committees may support candidates, launch political advertising campaigns of their own or do grass-roots organizing, such as voter registration drives.
Another type of tax exempt committee regulated by the IRS that may be involved in some political activities is a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. This is the type of organization that the IRS improperly targeted for extra scrutiny when many of them, especially groups affliated with the Tea Party, applied for tax exempt status during the 2012 elections.
For more on the different types of commitees see the Center for Responsive Politics' Types of Advocacy Groups.
Finally, television stations also are required by the Federal Communications Commission to report political advertising purchases by campaign committees on all levels.
What's Available Online
Federal Election Commission
The FEC's online database of campaign contribution reports is searchable by candidate/office holder or by individual donor, as well as by the names of campaign committees and political action committees.
To get street addresses for individual contributors, click on the link for the image number to the right of the listing for a contributor's name. That will call up an electronic copy of the section of the campaign report that lists the contributor and their address.
You also can download electronic copies of many of the reports in different formats. Links to the download sites are at:
Internal Revenue Service - 527 Committees
The IRS has a online database for searching campaign contribution and expenditure reports filed by independent 527 committees. These are committees involved in political activities that operate independently of a particular candidate or political party. They may support a candidate, launch advertising campaigns of their own or do grass-roots organizing, such as voter registration drives.
When doing a search, be sure to check the box for Form 8872 (which lists expenditures and contributions). The reports are viewable as PDF files.
Federal Communications Commission - TV Political Advertisements
The FCC has an online database of reports filed by television stations of political advertisements paid for by political campaign committees of all types.
At the page type in the call letters for a local TV station. Then at the new page click on the light blue and red star icon for "political files" in the menu near the top (roll over the icon with your mouse cursor and the words "political files" will appear).
Poynter also has published a guide on how to use these reports.
OpenSecrets, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, has searchable databases for individual donors, political action committees and 527 committees.
Formerly called FECInfo and now operated by CQ Roll Call, this is a non-governmental website that has an even more extensive database than the official FEC site, such as candidate filings dating back to the 1980 election. It was set up originally by a former FEC official.
Note: accessing more detailed information requires a paid subscription.