One of Carolina Forward’s central goals is to help explain and demystify North Carolina state politics to a wider audience. Today, we’re releasing two new resources to help do precisely that.
Two fundamental elements of any state’s politics are who votes, and who’s paying for all the campaigns. It can be surprisingly difficult to find accurate and clear information about either one. Now, we’ve developed a much easier way for anyone to do so, all on some simple Google spreadsheets.
North Carolina has a lot of registered PACs, including a large number organized and run by corporations, trade groups and associations. Collectively, this corporate PAC community donates a whole lot of money to state politicians. But unless you know exactly what to look for, like the names and IDs and recipient lists, and where, it can be very hard to know just what the patterns are like.
Our Corporate Donations Tracker solves this problem. We’ve listed several dozen of the biggest corporate PACs in North Carolina, all on one easy-to-navigate spreadsheet. We allow you to see exactly which state legislators and caucuses each PAC has given to in the current campaign cycle (2021-2022). It will be updated after each reporting period this year and next.
Please note that this tracker excludes donations to political parties themselves. (Under NC law, individuals are allowed to donate unlimited amounts to political parties, by the way.) It also does not list every single PAC registered in the state – that list is just too long – or independent expenditure (IE) PACs.
For reference, the title image to this post is our summary of last campaign cycle’s PAC giving.
Probably the single most important information about North Carolina elections is – where are the voters? Just like campaign finance reports, voter registration information is all public record, but it’s extremely confusing and hard to access for a casual observer.
Some Carolina Forward volunteers helped us download the latest state voter registration file and summarize and organize it into an easy-to-understand set of spreadsheets. You can see how many voters there are in every county in North Carolina, and how they’re categorized. We even set up some comparisons between voter registrations today versus May 2018 and May 2016.
(By the way – wondering why there are 657,000 fewer registered voters today than in May 2018? Well, it’s because our state board of elections, like those in every state, regularly scrubs the voter rolls of inactive voters. If you haven’t voted in a few cycles and don’t respond to a postcard they send out, your registration gets removed.)
One of the reasons most people do not follow state politics is because they find it difficult to understand. Data like this is reasonably obscure and hard to parse unless you know what you’re looking for. This is, at least in part, intentional. Many politicians would rather the public know as little as possible about who funds their campaigns, for example. And in a larger sense, it directly benefits some entrenched interests for the public to pay no attention to what their state is doing. Mystifying the public works to their advantage.
Don’t let them mystify you.