Tracking Campaign Contributions

Carissa Hessick stands outsideProsecutors wield significant power in the American criminal justice system. That power is subject to very few checks. Elections are the only real check on prosecutors.

To dig deeper, the Prosecutors and Politics Project at UNC School of Law compiled a database that identifies who contributed to prosecutor elections and the amount of their donations. In June, the project released its National Study of Contributions in Prosecutor Elections.

The project compiled fragmented data into a single nationwide database that will allow sustained study about who contributes to prosecutor campaigns and the amount of contributions.

“Recent years have seen some scattered media reports about specific contributions in prosecutor campaigns. But ours is not only the first national study, but also the first systematic study of campaign contributions in prosecutor elections,” said Carissa Hessick, director of the Prosecutors and Politics Project and the Anne Shea Ransdell and William Garland “Buck” Ransdell, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law.

Hessick wants this project to help gain insight into the role of prosecutors as well as who supports different prosecutors financially.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a lot of media coverage about money in prosecutor elections,” said Hessick. “Most of that coverage focuses on money from police unions or criminal justice reform advocates like George Soros. As I was reading that coverage, I realized that it was difficult to put those stories in context because we didn’t know anything about what campaign contributions in prosecutor elections look like.”

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