Not since the Gilded Age has money dominated American politics as it does today. Untold millions move through political action committees and their steroidal siblings, super PACs, through opaque nonprofit groups run out of PO boxes, much of it intended to keep average voters in the dark about who is influencing their elections. And as the 2014 election year begins, with control of the House of Representatives, the US Senate and 38 governorships at stake, you can expect ever more of this campaign cash — secret and not — flooding into local, state and federal races.
As the “dark money” reporter for Mother Jones, it’s my job to shine as much light on this cash bonanza as I can. I do this using every tool and trick at my disposal: databases, experts, plugged-in sources and good old-fashioned door knocking. Here are four easy-to-use tips for following the money in your state — and throwing some sunlight on the mega-donors trying to sway your elections.