All campaign reports can be examined online. Reports for state-level offices are on the Secretary of State's website. A good place to start is here. Reports for local offices are on the county clerk's website. For Ingham County, start here and click the Public Login button. Call me at 515-505-2696 (Lansing) and I will be happy to walk you through it.
Electronic vs. Paper
Candidates for state-level offices must file electronically if they 1) spent or received $20,000.00 in the preceding calendar year, or 2) expect to spend or receive $20,000.00 in the current calendar year. However, all are encouraged to file electronically regardless of how much they receive or spend. Reporting electronically is good for researchers and nosey citizens like me because the data can be browsed online more easily and even downloaded into a spreadsheet. The Secretary of State provides a free program for reporting electronically that can be downloaded onto the candidate's computer. I used it in my 2008 campaign for state representative and found it to be a primitive piece of crap, but with support from the Elections Bureau, I made it work.
Although candidates for local offices must file on paper - they can't file electronically - PACs report electronically to the Secretary of State, and their reports include contributions to local candidates. That is where I got the data on PAC contributions to candidates for Lansing city offices. To get data on contributions to City candidates from individuals, I had to browse the images of paper documents on the County Clerk's website. That is what I did to get the data on contributions to the mayor and the city council from people associated with the Board of Water and Light for my report on BWL Campaign Contributions. The reports on the County Clerk's website also include the PAC contributions.
Candidates. Candidates submit up to 5 campaign reports a year: a pre-primary, a post-primary, a pre-general, a post-general and an annual. The closing date for the pre- reports is 16 days before the election and the due date is 11 days before the election. The closing date for the post- reports is 20 days after the election and the due date is 30 days after the election. The closing date for the annual report is December 31 and the due date is January 31. If the due date of a campaign report falls on a weekend or state holiday, the due date is automatically moved to the next business day. This does not apply to closing dates.
What this means is that no candidate reports for the 2009 election year will be available until about 2 weeks before the primary.
A candidate who doesn't make it past the primary doesn't have to submit a general election report. But unless a campaign committee dissolution report has been submitted, the candidate must continue to file annual reports.
Candidates must also submit "late contribution" reports. A late contribution is any single contribution of $200.00 or more received between the 15th and the 3rd day before the election. These contributions must be reported within 48 hours of when they are received. Late contributions must also be included in the post-election report, so if that report has already been filed, there is no need for the researcher to look at the late contribution reports.
For the official explanation of candidate reporting requirements, see the Candidate Committee Manual.
PACs. PACs submit triannual reports. In even-numbered years, reports are required on April 25 (closes April 20), July 25 (closes July 20) and October 25 (closes October 20). In odd-numbered years, reports are required on January 31 (closes December 31), July 25 (closes July 20) and October 25 (closes October 20).
What this means is that no PAC reports for the 2009 election year will be available until about July 25.
PACs must report "late contributions" also. For a PAC, a late contribution is any single contribution of $200.00 or more received between the 15th and the 3rd day before an election in which the PAC participates. Late contributions must be included in the PAC's next regular report.
PACs must file their campaign finance reports electronically if the committee 1) spent or received $20,000.00 in the preceding calendar year or 2) expects to spend or receive $20,000.00 in the current calendar year. I suspect most file electronically.
For the official explanation of PAC reporting requirements, see the Independent Committee and Political Committee (PAC) Manual.
How I Got PAC Contribution Data for City of Lansing Candidates
To a candidate, a donation from a PAC is a contribution. To a PAC, a donation to a candidate is an expense. So under Search Options on this webpage, I chose Search by Expenditure Analysis. On the Expenditure Analysis screen, for Committee Type I selected Independent PAC. Then I checked Spreadsheet Format. If you don't check Spreadsheet Format, you will get easily readable data displayed 100 records per page, which is OK unless you are dealing with thousands of records.
When you download in Spreadsheet Format, the number of records is limited to 25,000. If you go over that, you get this message:
The statement about Microsoft Excel being limited to 16,384 rows is true only of versions prior to 8.0. The limit for 8.0 is 64,000. (I went out a bought 8.0 just so I could import more than 16,384 contribution records.) To stay under the 25,000 limit, enter Statement Year. If you are still over 25,000, enter a range of dates under Date of Expense. Six month ranges worked for me.
If the number of records is under 25,000, you will get a record description followed by some notes which include this statement:
Just below that statement you will see a link that says
Save the file. Its name will be mi_exp.sh. Then start Excel and open the file. For Excel to see the file, you need to change file type to All Files. In the Import Wizard window, click Next, Next and Finish.
To get the records for City of Lansing candidates, I sorted by Office Sought and Payee City, deleted all non-Lansing records and records for offices such as Supreme Court and State Representative and looked for familiar names. You have to be careful, because field values are not standardized. For example, Office Sought for a city council candidate might be City Council, Lansing City Council, City Council Ward 4, or simply Local. And Payee Name might be the candidate's name or the campaign committee's name.