I’d like to be the kind of person who can mind my own business, but I’m not. So imagine how excited I was to discover the Federal Election Commission’s Presidential Campaign Finance Map .
The map shows you who donated what to whom, with many ways to slice and dice the juicy information. You can look up your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and enemies by zip code, employer, city, or name. You can search those options for all donations, or break them down further, searching all Democratic candidates or all Republican candidates, or specific candidates.
With calculator in hand, I quickly substantiated my hunch that my Atlanta zip code of 30307, an eclectic, in-town neighborhood, is much more Democratic leaning than Republican leaning. Specifically, donors in my zip code have given a total of $6,970 to Republican candidates (John McCain, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, and Rudy Giuliani) while they’ve given $76,589 to Democratic candidates (John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, Christopher Dodd, and Joseph Biden).
I do know that the Web site is not perfect, because my husband (who seems to give all of our disposable income to political candidates) was not listed at all. But I did discover that my mother-in-law’s good friend favors Obama; that attorneys in my husband’s small firm have given $4,800 to Edwards and $6,400 to Obama; and that no employees of my favorite burger shop, Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries, appear to be politically active (at least in the money sense).
When you click on the map the FEC provides, you can see how much money donors in each state have given, and this brings up a serious political question. Donors from Iowa, which receives the lion’s share of the candidates’ attention for months leading up to the primary, had given candidates only $834,417 as of Sept. 30. Compare that to my state, Georgia, which had accounted for $5.4 million; New York, which had accounted for $48.9 million; and California, which had accounted for a whopping $51.3 million. Is the primary system, then, unfairly slanted against more populous, financially forthcoming states?
I learned that Edwards, of North Carolina, has raised more money in Texas, New York, and California than his home state. I learned that Dennis Kucinich, the wacky former Cleveland mayor, has raised only $6,000 from the state of Georgia since he began his 2008 campaign. And I noticed that the Red state of Georgia has given $68,257 more to Democrats than Republicans.
So, are you going to engage in some political voyeurism? Next time you think you know neighbors, really know them, look them up on the FEC Web site and see whether they’re harboring a secret love of Mike Gravel (who?) or Thomas Gerald Tancredo (huh?). Is your neighbor Ms. Money Bags? Is there a local reporter who is supposed to be nonpartisan, but is writing checks to Fred Thompson’s campaign? Is your spouse telling you every time he writes a $200 check for a candidate?
Go ahead and look. It’s okay. I did.