Thursday, February 15, 2007

Let the Searches Begin

In the last two years, more than $29 million has flowed into campaign funds controlled by Chicago city officials and their challengers, and now it’s easy for voters to identify the big contributors and see where the money is going.

The Sunshine Database at has been updated for the Chicago elections, with more than 36,000 individual contributions to the election campaigns of every candidate for citywide office, all 50 aldermen and their opponents, and the wealthiest political ward committees.

“The Sunshine Database has become one of the handiest and most popular investigative tools for journalists and everyday voters,” said Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform (ICPR). “Once limited to statewide, legislative and judicial campaigns, the search tool has been expanded to include every candidate vying for a piece of the power in Chicago’s City Hall.”

“Visitors to the web site will find the names of the top 50 contributors to the reelection of Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, as well as who is contributing to Dorothy Brown’s and Dock Walls' campaigns to unseat Daley,” said Kent Redfield, Director of the Sunshine Project and a professor of political studies at the University of Illinois at Springfield. “It is now easy to find information about the contributors, how much they gave, and what other candidates received money from them. The web site also reports how the campaigns have been spending their money."

“Because contribution reports prepared by the candidates have a variety of name spellings and even nicknames for the same contributor, it is impossible for some web sites to provide an accurate account of who is funding campaigns,” Redfield said. “But we have standardized all of the names and done additional coding to make searches far more complete.”

The extensive update of the Sunshine Database was accomplished with the assistance of an investigative journalism class at Columbia College in Chicago and college interns working at ICPR.

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