Social Science Research Institutes

National Institute on Money in State Politics

  • Helena, MT

Mission Statement

The nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute on Money in State Politics promotes an accountable democracy by compiling comprehensive campaign-donor, lobbyist, and other information from government disclosure agencies nationwide and making it freely available at

The Institute's massive database is intended to inform public debate on state policy issues. Our perceptive researchers help people make sense of the numbers. "The Institute publishes studies and provides technical assistance and training to reporters, academic researchers and public interest groups that work on state policy issues." The result today is substantive profiles on candidates and issues, insightful reports and reliable data for all 50 states.

A 2014 RAND Corporation report evaluates the impact of the National Institute on Money in State Politics:

"We find that the Institute has made meaningful contributions to the public debate over the role of money in politics, both at the state level and nationally. The users we interviewed see the Institute as the gold standard resource for data on money in state politics. Indeed, the Institute has been a driving force behind informed public discussion of state campaign finance in the academic, journalistic, and advocacy communities. Perhaps as importantly, its users see it as the best available independent resource for individuals who seek to discover the roots of the campaign money that has financed their own state-level candidates."

Main Programs

  1. Naming Names in All 50 States
  2. Institute Reports
  3. Blog and Social Media
  4. Industry Influence
  5. Custom Research
Service Areas



The Institute creates the nation's only 50-state political donation and lobbying databases and publishes state, regional and national research to reveal special-interest influence on elections and policy decisions.

ruling year


Executive Director


Mr. Edwin Bender



accountability, elections, campaign finance, candidate, public policy, transparency, ethics, state government, follow the money, money in politics, elections, politics, campaign contributions

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Also Known As





Physical Address

833 N Last Chance Gulch

Helena, 59601


Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (V05)

Research Institutes and/or Public Policy Analysis (R05)

Citizen Participation (W24)

IRS Filing Requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?


Self-reported by organization

The high-quality, comprehensive information produced by the National Institute on Money in State Politics provides the solid foundation to invigorate civic engagement for a twenty-first century democracy, where "of the people, by the people, for the people" rings true.

This foundational information:
● Informs journalists how political power manifests via agenda-setting activities, political donations, and lobbying activities.
● Aids policy analysts by informing strategic planning and legislative advocacy.
● Fuels arguments of attorneys defending laws governing transparency and accountability.
● Invigorates scholarly investigations that illuminate ways to shift incentives in elections to increase participation.
● Increases public education and supports civic engagement in elections and policy debates.

The Institute also strives to be dynamic and present new tools to assist the public in determining the influence of money in politics. In the spring 2016, for example, the Institute made available the nation's first window to the billions of dollars spent in the states lobbying state lawmakers. Using a pilot group of 19 states, the Institute now provides lobbying expenditure data in 20 states documenting spending from 2012 through 2015. As states improve their disclosure, the Institute will add more states to this new collection of data.


Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Program 1

Naming Names in All 50 States

Who contributes to state campaigns? Who lobbies for whom?


Social Science Research

Population(s) Served


Program 2

Institute Reports

Researchers examine campaign finance trends and anomalies, independent spending, judicial races, newsmakers.


Social Science Research

Population(s) Served


Program 3

Blog and Social Media

Timely, relevant updates on state-level races.


Social Science Research

Population(s) Served


Program 4

Industry Influence

Learn which industries give to candidates who will make policy decisions about those industries.


Social Science Research

Population(s) Served


Program 5

Custom Research

Customized summaries and membership development.


Social Science Research

Population(s) Served


Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

Five powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    The Institute calls attention to the value of the data for investigative reporting, academic research, policy debates, and civic engagement by publishing research findings and connect-the-dots stories at In The News, The Money Tale, Institute Reports, and Collaborations and Outside Research.

    During 2016 and 2017, the Institute will augment its unique archives of public records by collecting and making available the following information:
    1. Collect lobbying expenditure reports filed in 2015 and 2016 in up to 25 states that have laws requiring reporting of meaningful information, such as lobbyists' compensation.
    2. Collect political contribution reports filed by state candidates, party committees, and ballot measure committees for 2015 and 2016 elections with state agencies.
    3. Collect the political contribution reports filed by federal candidates and party committees for 2016 elections with the FEC.
    4. Collect independent spending reports in 2016 and 2017 elections to include up to 31 states.
    5. Collect state and federal 2015 and 2016 political action committee reports, as resources allow.
    6. Initiate collection of political 527 organization reports filed with the IRS. Expand the database by collecting historical and future records, as resources allow.
    7. Expand collection of political contributions for local elections, as resources allow.

    Intended outcomes from the Institute's work are as follows:
    ● Illustrate how the Institute's resources contribute to a healthy democracy, such as tracing the influence of its Best Practices recommendations on state disclosure laws and reporting systems.
    ● Build on the Institute's solid technological foundation with open source programming, updated database management, and cloud storage capabilities.
    ● Ensure that the board of directors includes representatives from key target audiences and stakeholders to help guide marketing, outreach, and usability of the resources.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    The Institute will continue to provide a unique, single-site, verifiable campaign-finance database of 26,000,000 records covering state elections from 2000 forward, and federal elections from 2010 forward. The Institute has expanded the scope of research to include independent spending and lobbying expenditures in selected states as well.

    The data will continue to be made available, for free, to encourage transparency and promote independent investigation by journalists, academic researchers, public-interest groups, government agencies, policymakers, students and the public at large.

    The Institute will also continue publishing reports on how campaign contributions correlate with important policy decisions.
    Increase the use of the NIMSP website and the number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers and blog visitors through outreach to user groups, policy groups, community reporters, public access stations, etc.

    The Institute's Best Practices disclosure reports show how well each of the 50 state disclosure and ethics agencies rate in specific categories, from timely and informative disclosure to availability of electronic downloads. By rating each state, and illustrating which states have done the best in each category, the Institute guides agency officials and staff toward improved disclosure. In addition, Institute trainers work with the Council On Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL), the umbrella group for disclosure and ethics officials.

    While improving the reporting and technical aspects of election transparency is a core element of the work, it is also a huge task to put the data into context so that it is engaging and relevant to the public.

    My Legislature, one of the Institute's newest tool, illuminates the relationships between campaign contributors and important public-policy decisions. It links lawmakers and the committees to which they are assigned with the legislative bills they sponsor and their campaign donors. Now the public can see whether a bill benefiting a private company is supported by lawmakers who received political donations from that same company.
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    The Institute forges the tools needed to make a difference in 21st century policy battles: accurate and complete data, tools for investigative journalism, and a strong focus on government transparency and accountability. No matter the issue, the Institute's decade of 50-state political contribution records and its identification of over 100,000 lobbyists and clients registered with the states each year, and its independent spending and lobbying expenditure data – combine to provide powerful background information on lawmakers debating public policy in legislative sessions. To ensure the resources are effectively used, we reach out to journalists, policy groups, scholars, and legal advocates navigating a variety of complex issues.

    National Advisors and Officers Convening. The Institute's most significant outreach effort is the annual formation and convening of national advisors and foundation officers uniquely matched to topics for intensive roundtable discussions. Presenters pose solutions to challenges to elections, judicial independence, government and corporate accountability, investigative journalism, and civic engagement.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    The Institute uses the following benchmarks to measure progress and success:

    An increase in the number of visitors to published results and website pages viewed

    An increase in the number of traditional media citations that refer to the Institute or to its projects ;

    An increase in the number of research activities citing our data;

    An increase in the number of unique visits to the Institute's Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and blogs ;

    An increase in the number of requests for “expert witness testimony" in civil court cases;
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    The Institute's entity resolution system and revolutionary data architecture have catapulted search capacity into a new twenty-first century platform for an expanded trajectory. Website usability of however remains a challenge, and the Institute is investing additional resources to ensure the data is available in an intuitive, accessible manner. It is currently producing bi-weekly YouTube tutorials to assist users of our website databases.

    The Legislative Committee Analysis Tool (L-CAT) identifies the members of all 500+ state legislative committees. This tool gives an instant view of the political contributions of each committee member or of each committee as a whole.

    A 20-state Lobbying Expenditures database has been created, documenting tens of million of dollars spent lobbying state lawmakers. The Institute will expand its collection to capture additional states when the remaining states are able to provide accessible thorough data.

    The “My District" function allows a visitor to enter a home address and pull up the contribution records for their roster of state candidates and ballot measures.

    We will continue our outreach to journalists, academics and policy groups. To that end, the Institute would love to develop a fellowship program to train journalists and researchers;

    In addition, the Institute has plans to further develop more extensive mobile apps, designed to allow the public to follow the money, wherever they are
Service Areas



The Institute creates the nation's only 50-state political donation and lobbying databases and publishes state, regional and national research to reveal special-interest influence on elections and policy decisions.

Additional Documents

Social Media


Funding Needs

Contributions; Grants


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Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

Fiscal year: Jul 01-Jun 30
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

National Institute on Money in State Politics



Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2015 and 2014
  • Board Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
Need the ability to download nonprofit data and more advanced search options? Consider a Premium or Pro Search subscription.

Executive Director

Mr. Edwin Bender


A founding incorporator for the Institute, Edwin Bender was named Executive Director in 2003, and also serves on its board of directors.  He coordinates organizational policy-making, serves as spokesperson, and provides financial oversight in addition to his key role in fundraising.  Ed has assigned priority to speeding online posting of contribution records, developing projects in partnership with academic researchers and other organizations, and increasing training and technical assistance to website user groups.  A graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism, he was an award-winning reporter and editor at newspapers in Montana, Alaska and Washington.

STATEMENT FROM THE Executive Director

""Every election cycle, around 16,000 candidates run for state-level office. We collect hundreds of thousands of campaign finance reports filed by these candidates, as well as political party committees and ballot issue committees, generating over 3 million records. We also collect campaign finance reports filed by candidates who run for federal office (since 2010), and we collect lobbying expenditure and independent spending reports in selected states . We then standardize and assign industry categories to all the political spenders in our database.

It is very difficult and, in a word, a nightmare.  What started as a one-year project fourteen years ago has since become an indispensable and comprehensive resource for the public. We hope to create a citizen army that is really interested in tracking legislators and holding them accountable, which in turn will create a more responsive government."

Edwin Bender-Executive Director (2016)"



Mr. Bert Brandenburg


Term: June 2011 -


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Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?



Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?