Money Matters: What you may not know about voting with your dollars

Education Resources, Finance 411,

Election Day is approaching and candidates are picking up the pace in asking for votes – and flor last-minute contributions.

In the past few years, small online contributions to political candidates and committees have rapidly increased.

Federal election regulations require candidates to collect and report information about anyone who gives more than $200 in an election cycle and, while only around half of percent of US residents contribute enough to reach this threshold, according to Federal Election Commission reports, for 2018 this is nearly double the percentage from 2014, the last non-presidential election year. And, so far, these individual contributions add up to 66% of total federal campaign funds, including more than $60 million in this year’s close races for the House.

What does this have to do with personal finance?

With the proliferation of digital methods for campaigns to directly reach potential voters and donors, it’s easier than ever to make a quick donation to a candidate in a tight race. But do these small donors take note of the required fields for occupation and employer? How many know that the campaigns may be required to disclose their personal information? That disclosure rules kick in, at the federal level, at $200 in contributions to a campaign in total over an election?

This publically released data can be used to break down, for example, political giving by employees at various tech companies, as in this example from ReCode.

And what about spending in state or local races? The National Council of State Legislatures provides guidance on state-by-state disclosure requirements, and the Campaign Finance Institute provides additional detail for each state’s rules. For example, a quick search shows that campaigns’ disclosure reports include information about contributors who gave more than $100, while many Maryland reports list all contributions.

Check with your state’s Board of Elections to find out more about the campaign contribution disclosure rules in your state and let your news audience know that, when they vote with their wallets, they may be doing so publically.

Weekly Money Matters personal finance content for your newsroom is sponsored by the National Endowment for Financial Education