About The Secret Money Project Modern presidential and Senate campaigns aren't just contests involving two (or three, or four) candidates. The political parties are active, of course, and beyond that, all sorts of interest groups want to play.
NPR logo About The Secret Money Project

About The Secret Money Project


Reporters: NPR's Peter Overby and Will Evans of the Center for Investigative Reporting  

Producer: Nancy Cook

Editors: Maria Godoy and Beth Donovan

Designer: Callie Neylan

Project Manager: Scott Stroud

Reporting Intern: Daniella De Franco of the Center for Investigative Reporting

Ads provided by the Campaign Media Analysis Group

First things first: We don't actually have any secret money. That Benjamin in the picture was a prop, and they made us give it back.

That said, here's the short version of what we're about: Political money can be sorted into three piles — the candidates' cash, the parties' and everything else.

This "everything else" money is what we're looking at, where it comes from and how it's used in the presidential and Senate races. Outside groups have more financial freedom, and more secrecy, than the candidates or parties, and their combined spending will easily reach into nine figures.

The Secret Money Project is a joint undertaking of NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting. Your reporters are Peter Overby, NPR's Power, Money and Influence Correspondent (yes, that's really the job title), and Will Evans, money-and-politics reporter for CIR.

So if you're interested in schemes to kneecap the opposition, strategies to sway voters without revealing where the financing came from, and sophisticated network-building on the left and right, welcome. We hope the project throws a little light on the "everything else" side of the '08 campaign.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Secret Money Project?

The Secret Money Project is a joint investigation by NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting, tracking the hidden cash in this election cycle.

But what do you mean by 'hidden cash?'

Well, remember the Swift Boat ad four years ago? This independently produced ad crippled Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

And, this year's crop of independent ads has the potential to be equally influential, powerful and possibly damaging. With changes in political strategies and campaign law, these groups could be more important than ever.

These groups don't have to disclose their donors and spending the same way the candidates do. Some don't have to disclose at all, hence "secret money."

What is the purpose of the blog?

The Secret Money blog will feature independent ads that air in specific markets across the country (swing states, anyone?) and will allow you (the blog reader) to see the types of messages that your fellow voters do in other states.

Hopefully, by seeing the ads through this birds-eye view, we'll notice any patterns that may emerge — either through the types of themes explored in the ads, or the places that the groups chose to air them.

Of course, the blog will also feature news and analysis from NPR's Peter Overby, who covers power, money and influence. His reporter-in-crime, Will Evans of the Center for Investigative Reporting, will also contribute.

Can I contribute to this project?

Glad you asked — yes.

Contact us if you hear from any independent groups.

Tell us what group contacted you. How did they do it? Mail? E-mail? Ringing your doorbell? A phone call? What was the message? And which race did the ad focus on — Presidential? Senate? House? To clarify: We're tracking outside groups — not candidates or political parties — just independent groups such as MoveOn.org, AARP and unions, to name a few.