Tutorial: Campaign Statements
Candidates for public office on a federal, state and local level all must file political campaign statements.
The statements detail who has given money to their campaigns, and what they have spent that money on.
Similar statements also are required for campaign committees supporting or opposing ballot initiatives on a state and local level.
What's in a Campaign Statement
Each campaign statement will detail the contributions a campaign committee received and expenditures made during a reporting period.
While the format of campaign statements varies depending on whether they're filed for a federal, state or local race, they almost all will include these elements:
- Cover page - this lists the name of the campaign committee, the candidate (or ballot measure) the committee is supporting, the office the candidate is running for, the name of the committee's treasurer along with the treasurer's contact information, and the dates of the reporting period covered by the statement.
- Financial summary page - this reports total contributions received (cash donations, loans and non-monetary contributions) and expenditures made during the reporting period. This page usually also includes totals for previous reporting periods. And it usually has a grand total for all contributions and expenditures during the current election cycle (primary or general election) or calendar year, adding the contributions and expenditures in the current reporting period to the committee's previously reported contributions and expenditures.
- Itemized contributions - the names of any individuals or organizations that made a contribution to the commitee, the amount of each contribution, the date of the contribution, the address of the contributor, and the occupation and employer of the contributor. Often a running total of all contributions by a donor to the campaign committee will be included for the current campaign period (primary or general election) or for the current calendar year, adding the donor's current contribution to previous contributions the donor made to this campaign committee.
- Non-monetary contributions - non-cash donations to the committee such as office space, services, food for a fundraiser, etc. These will list the person or company making the non-monetary donation, their address, a description of the non-monetary donation, the value of the donation and the date of the donation.
- Loans - any loans received by the campaign, including the lender's name and address, the amount of the loan and often the interest rate being charged on the loan.
- Itemized expenditures - the names of people or organizations that were paid by the committee to perform services or provide supplies, along with their addresses and the amonts paid to them. The nature of the services or supplies provided will be described, sometimes with a short code for different types of expenditures.
For more on what information is on a campaign statement, see the Campaign Disclosure Statements page at the California Secretary of State's website.
At that page you can download sample campaign statements, which include detailed explanations of what contributions and expenditures must be reported.
When Campaign Statements Are Filed
Campaign statements are filed periodically, each one covering a period of time leading up to an election.
For example, in the months leading up to a June election, a campaign committee might have to file 3 campaign statements - one covering January and February, another covering March and April and a third one covering part of May.
During off-election periods, office holders and candidate still must file campaign statements, usually semi-annually.
Where to Find the Statements
For federal offices, virtually all campaign statements are available online at the Federal Election Commission Web site. You also can use a search box to find donations by particular individuals to all federal candidates.
Many states, including California, also provide online access to campaign statements.
Some municipalities have posted online campaign statements in local races. But in most cases you'll have to go to the government office, such as a city clerk's office, to view the campaign reports.
Federal Campaign Statements
Campaign statements for federal offices - the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives and the Offices of the President and the Vice President - are filed with the Federal Election Commission.
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 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.
Television stations also are required by the Federal Communications Commission to report political advertising purchases by political 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, which are groups involved in political activities that operate independent 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). And to view the reports, you'll need to open them with Adobe Acrobat Reader (Apple's Preview program for reading PDF files does not work with these documents).
Federal Communications Commission
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 blue and red star icon for "political files" in the menu near the top.
CQ Money Line
Formerly called FECInfo, this is a non-governmental Web site that has an even more extensive database than the official FEC site. It was set up originally by a former FEC official.
The candidate filings at the site date back to the 1980 election.
At the main page, click on the menu items at the top to search contribution reports by the name of an individual donor, party committee, political action committee, 527 committee, or candidate.
Note: accessing detailed information requires a paid subscription.
OpenSecrets, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, has searchable databases for individual donors, political action committees and 527 committees.
State Campaign Statements
States require candidates for state offices to file campaign spending and contribution reports.
Many states put the information online.
What's Available Online
Several websites are gateways to state campaign data.
Investigative Reporters and Editors
Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc. has a list of links to the web pages of state agencies around the country that compile campaign contribution reports in those states.
Federal Election Commission
The Federal Election Commission has a directory of Web sites of Secretaries of State and other agencies in each state that regulate campaign contribution reporting.
Institute on Money in State Politics
This site has compiled campaign contribution data from many different states into a searchable database.
Center for Public Integrity
This site has a searchable database of contributions to and expenditures by state party committees.
California Campaign Statements
All candidates for any state or local office in California must file a campaign statement.
Committees supporting or opposing state and local ballot propositions also must file campaign statements.
Statements also are required by political party committees or independent political committees (committees that are not affiliated with a particular candidate's campaign).
The California Secretary of State's Cal-Access website provides online access to the information in the statements.
Any "major donor" - a person, company or organization that has contributed a total of $10,000 to California candidates or ballot measures in the past year - must file a statement with the California Secretary of State's Office detailing all of their contributions.
What's in the Campaign Statements
The statements itemize loans and contributions to a candidate from any individual or company that total $100 or more during an election cycle (an election cycle is a primary election or a general election). For each contribution, the statements list:
- the donor's name
- the donor's address
- the donor's occupation and employer
- the date of the contribution
- the amount of the contribution
Non-monetary contributions (such as donation of office space or services) or loans must be reported as well.
The statements also describe what money was spent by the candidate or committee, detailing payments to campaign workers or consultants and expenditures on postage, printing, media advertising, polling surveys, office expenses, etc.
When the Statements are Filed
During an election year, seven statements usually are filed by each candidate or committee.
Four statements are filed for a June primary election - in January, March and May leading up to the election, and then in July for expenditures from late May through the June election date.
During the 90 days leading up to the June election, campaigns also must report within 24 hours any individual contributions of $1,000 or more.
Note: the filing schedules will be different if a primary election is held in a different month.
Three statements are filed for the November general election - in early October and late October leading up to the election, and then in December for expenditures from late October through the November election date.
During the 90 days leading up to the November election, campaigns also must report within 24 hours any individual contributions of $1,000 or more.
In a year in which no elections are scheduled, elected office holders still must file campaign statements every six months.
Where the Statements are Filed
For candidates for state office such the Assembly and Senate, Governor, Attorney General, etc., the statements are filed with the California Secretary of State in Sacramento. Major donor statements also are filed with the California Secretary of State.
Each state legislator - Assembly or Senate - also must file a copy of his or her campaign statement with the county registrar of voters in the county that has the largest number of registered voters in the legislator’s district.
For candidates for county offices and for special government districts or agencies (such as a school district or transit district board), the statements usually are kept with the county registrar of voters office or county elections department.
For candidates for city offices, the statements usually are kept by the city clerk’s office.
What's Available Online
Campaign statements for state offices, including state ballot measures, can be accessed at the Secretary of State’s website called:
Any campaign committee that raises or spends $50,000 or more in an election must file electronically with the state and thus is included in the online database.
At the main Cal-Access page you can click on the main menu selections to find filings by candidates, ballot measure committees, political party committees, independent committees, major donors or late contributions.
Then either pick a particular candidate, committee or donor and an election period.
Once you've selected a particular candidate, committee or donor, choose the type of information you want - such as contributions received, political contributions made, expenditures made - to get detailed reports.
Note: The information in the campaign statements compiled at the CalAccess site are consolidated for each election. So all the statements filed leading up to a primary election will be consolidated into one electronic report, and all the statements filed leading up to a general election will be consolidated into another electronic report.
Local Campaign Statements
Candidates for county offices or for special government agencies or districts usually file with a county registrar of voter's office, while candidates for municipal offices will file with a city clerk’s office.
You usually have to go to those offices to view the campaign statements in paper form.
What's Available Online
Some California cities or counties such as Berkeley, Contra Costa County, Richmond and San Francisco put online the campaign contribution and spending reports for candidates for city office, as well as for municipal ballot measures.
Berkeley has its campaign statements available at:
Search by name of a candidate to get a copy of the candidate's campaign statement in pdf format.
Note: when you visit this database it puts a cookie on your web browser that can interfere with your ability to see the San Francisco campaign database listed below (which uses the same website as the Berkeley one). After using the Berkeley database you may need to delete the cookie so you can view the San Francisco database.
Contra Costa County
Contra Costa County posts electronic copies of campaign statements for a variety of races including the county board of supervisors, local school districts and special districts. Those are on a special website:
The Oakland City Clerk's Office has an online database of campaign statements filed by candidates for city council, mayor, school board and other elected city offices, and committees for and against municipal ballot measures:
Richmond has electronic copies of campaign statements on its website at:
San Francisco has a searchable database of campaign statements and contributions to candidates at:
You can search by name of a candidate or donor.
For help using the San Francisco database see the Campaign Finance Database Frequently Asked Questions.
Note: when you visit this database it puts a cookie on your web browser that can interfere with your ability to see the Berkeley campaign database listed above (which uses the same website as the San Francisco one). After using the San Francisco database you may need to delete the cookie so you can view the Berkeley database.
The City of Los Angeles has a searchable database of campaign statements and donors.
About this Tutorial
This tutorial was originally written by Paul Grabowicz for students in his Computer Assisted Reporting class at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
This content may not be republished in print or digital form without express written permission from KDMC. Please see our Content Redistribution Policy at kdmc.berkeley.edu/license.