Published — December 27, 2018

By the numbers: a 2018 money-in-politics index

President Donald Trump gestures as he walks to Air Force One as he departs Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Nov. 26, 2018. (AP/Alex Brandon)

This article is co-published with Public Radio International.


The Center for Public Integrity’s reporters crunched a lot of numbers during 2018 — a year that distinguished itself for record election spending and extreme political turbulence.

Here are a few of those numbers that stand out from the rest:

30: Days after the 2018 general election when secretive, pop-up super PACs finally disclosed their donors.

2: Number of donors to Texas Forever, a secretive Democratic super PAC that spent $2.3 million bashing Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas before disclosing the source of the money. More than 99 percent came from Senate Majority PAC, a massive super PAC promoting Democrats. Another $10,000 came from director and producer James Brooks.

$511,000: The lowest-possible median net worth of U.S. senators and U.S. House members, according to a February analysis by Roll Call.

Less than $30,000: Income in 2017 reported by two 29-year-old Democrats who won congressional seats — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Abby Finkenauer of Iowa.

$155,000: Sum of what 22 candidates running for Congress collectively paid themselves for salaries out of their campaign funds — yes, the practice is legal — during the 2018 election.

$3,632: The amount congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley, a Democrat from New York, reported spending on child care services from campaign funds. In May, the Federal Election Commission approved Grechen Shirley’s request to use money from donors to pay for child care, the first time the agency explicitly approved this question for a female candidate. She was ultimately one of nine candidates to use campaign funds for child care-related expenses during the 2018 election.

In this Feb. 7, 2018 File, photo, a neon sign hanging in the window of Healthy Harvest Indoor Gardening in Hillsboro, Ore., shows that the business accepts bitcoin as payment. (AP/Gillian Flaccus)

Equivalent of $570,000: What nine federal candidates, parties and super PACs collectively received in cryptocurrency donations during the 2018 election.

20: Number of candidates of various political stripes, seeking all levels of office, who have been requesting or have received cryptocurrency — such as bitcoin — to fund their efforts during the 2018 election.

2011: The most recent year a U.S. House committee conducted an oversight hearing on the Federal Election Commission, which enforces and regulates campaign finance laws. Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren of California and Jamie Raskin of Maryland, both on the Committee on House Administration, told the Center for Public Integrity the committee would hold such a hearing in 2019 and “shine a spotlight on dysfunction” at the agency.

4: Number of Federal Election Commissioners whose terms have expired but continue to serve in “holdover status,” including 2019 Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub, D, and Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen, R.

2: Number of vacancies on the six-member FEC. President Donald Trump alone may nominate commissioners.

Texas attorney Trey Trainor, who President Donald Trump nominated in September 2017 to the Federal Election Commission. (AP)

0: Number of people Trump has successfully appointed to the FEC. Trump’s lone nominee, Texas attorney Trey Trainor, who aided Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, was first nominated in September 2017 and has yet to even receive a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.

$5.2 billion: The estimated amount spent during the 2018 federal midterm election, making it the most expensive midterm ever, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

5,900: Number of U.S. Senate candidate campaign finance forms with errors collectively totalling more than $70 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation. The culprit? Bad data entry. Until September, U.S. Senate candidates weren’t required to file their reports electronically.

$613,000: Amount a U.S. Senate candidate supposedly spent on gasoline during a single stop, because of mistakes in data entry converting paper campaign finance filings into electronic documents.

100: Percent more that U.S. government officials could expense on trips abroad compared to some equivalent travel by officials at the United Nations, European Union and United Kingdom. For instance, American officials can receive up to $416 a day when traveling to Prague. British officials, meanwhile, only get $202. On average, the U.S. gives officials 30 percent more in allowances for overseas trips.

Deb Haaland, a Democrat and Laguna Pueblo tribe member, will represent New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District. (Credit: debforcongress.com)

35: Percentage of contributions from Emily’s List super PAC Women Vote! to 7Gen Leaders, the first Native American super PAC. The group boosted Deb Haaland, the newly-elected representative for New Mexico’s 1st District. Haaland, curiously, is an outspoken critic of unlimited money in elections.  

55: The percentage of individual contributions to Democratic congressional candidates handled by the fundraising platform ActBlue between January 2017 and Sept. 30, 2018, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

About $16 billion: What the latest round of “tax extenders” will cost the U.S. Treasury over the next decade. For the groups and people that pushed through more than 30 of these tax cut provisions, read the Center for Public Integrity’s investigation.

About $1.6 million: Amount of money Richard F. Hohlt’s lobbying firm was paid by Saudi Arabia to represent the kingdom during 2017 and 2018 — before Hohlt decided to cut formal ties with the country. Lots of U.S. lobbyists have represented Saudi interests. But Hohlt’s situation was unique: Trump in 2017 appointed Hohlt to serve on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships, a part-time advisory body that nominates people to prestigious appointments within the federal government.

Brian Arthur Hampton

Less than 1: Percentage of the $1.6 million retired Army Maj. Brian Arthur Hampton’s political action committee, Put Vets First! PAC, spent on political campaigns through Nov. 26. The rest of the money was spent on fundraising and overhead, according to Federal Election Commission filings. A former employee of Hampton’s filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service in October following a Center for Public Integrity investigation.

12-to-1: Ratio representing how much Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith outraised her Democratic opponent Mike Espy in his hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi, before their Nov. 27 special runoff election for one of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats. Hyde-Smith, who was supported heavily by the family of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican donor who lives in Yazoo City, went on to win the election.

5.6: Percentage of students in Yazoo City, Mississippi, deemed ready for college or careers — one of the lowest rates in the state.

6: Number of years it took to resolve — mostly — a complaint that campaign finance reform group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed with the FEC against Crossroads GPS, a conservative nonprofit organization that has spent tens of millions of dollars to boost Republican political candidates. CREW alleged that Crossroads GPS was violating federal law by keeping its donors secret. In September, the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling forcing politically active nonprofit groups to disclose the identities of any donor giving more than $200 when those groups advertise for or against political candidates. Until then, such nonprofit organizations — generally, those of the 501(c)(4) “social welfare” and 501(c)(6) “business league” varieties — could keep secret their donors under most circumstances. The decision is under appeal.

$250,000: Fine levied against Akron, Ohio-based InfoCision Inc., a telemarketing company that fundraises for politicians, charities and major corporations, over allegedly “false and misleading” tactics. InfoCision settled a complaint filed by the Federal Trade Commission in January. The penalty related to InfoCision’s charitable work, not its work for political campaigns, but InfoCision clients have included a pro-President Donald Trump political action committee, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson’s 2016 presidential committee and groups connected to the Tea Party.

6: Number of communities Center for Public Integrity reporters visited for the “Abandoned in America” series. These six cities are filled with residents that say the crushing effects of poverty and government neglect aren’t improving — they’ve gone from bad to worse.

2: Number of hurricanes that swept through Lumberton, North Carolina. Robeson County was pummeled by Hurricanes Matthew and Florence within two years, and many residents feel forgotten by their federal lawmakers in getting relief.

905: Number of votes Republican Mark Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by in the congressional race for North Carolina’s 9th District, which includes Robeson County. Investigators are looking into allegations of election fraud and improperly handled absentee votes by a political strategist contractor for Harris’ campaign. Harris denies knowing about any illegal practices. There’s a chance that the state board of elections will call for a new election.

308: The number of so-called “honorary contributions” disclosed by companies and organizations that lobbied the federal government during 2017. It’s the lowest number in the decade since Congress began requiring companies and organizations to disclose payments to nonprofits and other groups made “in honor” of members of Congress or high-level executive branch appointees — but there’s little enforcement of the requirement.

$130,000: The amount President Donald Trump’s then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged to pay adult film actress Stormy Daniels via a limited liability company in 2016. In exchange, Daniels agreed not to discuss an alleged sexual relationship with Trump, who denies having an affair with Daniels. The payments are at the root of campaign finance charges against Cohen, who this year pleaded guilty to those and other charges.

13: Number of demands Michael Cohen made of officials in Fresno, California, to move forward in 2007 with a massive Donald Trump golf development in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, according to documents obtained this year by the Center for Public Integrity. Fresno officials declined, and Trump pulled out. Now, Fresno may need Trump’s help to complete a high-speed railway many city leaders consider essential to Fresno’s long-term economic health.

52.47 percent: The voter turnout in the 2018 election for Sioux County, North Dakota, which comprises the North Dakota side of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. The turnout, in the wake of a Center for Public Integrity investigation into the reasons why the county had the lowest voter turnout in the state, was the highest since at least 2008, a presidential election and more than double the 694 voters who came out for the 2014 midterm elections. It came after courts permitted a new voter identification law to go into effect for the election, sparking an unprecedented effort to help turn out Native American voters in North Dakota.

$10 million to $50 million: The value of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ Invesco Ltd. stock, which he was supposed to divest within 90 days of his Senate confirmation. He failed to do so, and the stock rose significantly in value before he sold it in December 2017. Ross said his failure to sell the stock was an inadvertent error.

3: Number of federal charges a jury in New Jersey found Cary Lee Peterson of Phoenix guilty of: two counts of false certification in Securities and Exchange Commission filings and one count of securities fraud. Peterson was the focus of a 2015 Center for Public Integrity investigation that exposed his fraught business and political dealings, including using a super PAC to seemingly scam “James Bond” actor Daniel Craig out of nearly $50,000.

52: Number of months in federal prison a federal judge, on Dec. 20, sentenced Peterson to serve. Merry Christmas — or something.

Read more in Money and Democracy

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Emily Short
Emily Short
5 years ago

Does Trump own stock in companies that would build the border wall? Like SLSCO?

Alisha Ross
Alisha Ross
5 years ago

This website was… how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve
found something that helped me. Appreciate it!