2018 Campaign Finance

As we did in 2017, MSPVotes will be publishing campaign finance records for local elections. We’re doing this for Hennepin County elections first, and will be releasing that data in chunks. If you want to learn how to use this feature, read our last news release. You can also help support our work.

Why? Hennepin County does not release campaign finance records in machine readable formats. Digitizing them is a time-consuming process, that opens the possibility for error, as finance records are often faxed and re-scanned into low-quality PDFs.

The first batch of records released on MSPVotes are:

We discovered a few things of interest:

  • Peter McLaughlin did not include occupational data, as required. We spent lots of time reconstructing this information, using 2017 data, lobbyist registrations and other records.
  • Mike Freeman has $7375 in donations from Hennepin County employees. Also: $3,000 in donations from Hubbard Broadcasting employees, and Hubbard family members.
  • The most heavy-hitting categories of donors (in order) appear to be: attorneys, developers, government employees, and registered lobbyists.

More documents to come. We will be catching up on remaining finance documents, and preparing for the next filing deadline: Tuesday, October 30, 2018.

🚨 Important Caveats 🚨

This tool was created in the interests of transparency. We think campaign contributions (like endorsements) are sometimes useful for understanding where an elected official stands ideologically or, in some cases, demonstrate a problematic affiliation (Bob Kroll and the police union!). But before you dig in, here’s some important things you should know:

  • This database does not contain a comprehensive list of all donors.We used our own editorial judgment to select donors based on the following criteria: notable donors or employers; high-dollar donors; and repeat donors.
  • Examining dozens of reports to manually compile this data is a time-consuming process subject to human error; we have undoubtedly missed some things. If you believe you’ve found a glaring omission, you can help by sending us an email or direct message–we’ll look into it.
  • Hennepin County needs to begin requiring reports to be filed and published in machine-readable format. This would make similar transparency projects much less laborious and far more comprehensive: more effort could be spent annotating data rather than entering it.
  • Campaign contributions by themselves are not a smoking gun. Please use this tool wisely.

Missing or inaccurate data?

If you notice any missing or inaccurate data, be sure to drop a note in our contact form.