Follow the money: Pennsylvanians deserve to see the whole picture

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The nonprofit Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania has established a website that lists the campaign contributions from labor unions to members of the state Senate and House.

It's an effective strategy for an organization that advocates for non-union and anti-union positions. But the website, paunionmoney.com, doesn't come close to giving a complete picture of campaign contributions to Pennsylvania lawmakers.

For one thing, the list excludes legislators who will leave office at the end of the year and those who did not receive any contributions from unions (as if they don't get political donations from other special interests). The site lists only 33 of 50 state senators and only 126 of the 203 members of the House of Representatives.

It's fair to argue that campaign contributions, especially from big-money donors, have too much sway in Pennsylvania's and the nation's elections. But influence comes from many sources, not just labor unions.

A website run by Pennsylvania's Department of State provides far more information, although it is more complicated to navigate. The portal, at www.campaignfinanceonline.state.pa.us, covers state elective office holders and candidates. By typing a name into the space marked "Filer Name," a search can be conducted based on contributions and expenditures, for particular election cycles, filing periods or years. The reports include names and contributions from all donors, those who gave as little as $100 to high-rollers who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This is a far better resource for anyone who wants to know who is behind candidates for office. The research takes longer than glancing at the list compiled by the Citizens Alliance, but it is time well spent because it tells the whole story.

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