Earlier this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo empaneled a so-called “Moreland Commission,” under New York’s Moreland Act, to investigate public corruption. The Moreland Commission, also known as the Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, is led by several state prosecutors. It recently issued its preliminary report. That report reflects that the Moreland Commission is using tools rarely seen in campaign finance investigations.
According to the report, the Moreland Commission has deployed undercover agents, which is highly unusual in a high-level campaign finance investigation of this kind. The Commission also announced in its report that it is using a “data analytics” tool to analyze both campaign finance disclosure report data and financial data collected using its subpoena power, to look for patterns in political giving. This is a somewhat novel technique, but we expect it will be used widely in coming years in campaign finance investigations. It is already being used extensively in securities investigations, and other regulators are likely to start adopting this technology soon. There is a great deal of data about political activities that is already in the public domain, and much that can be learned by regulators, or for that matter the media and special interest groups, by crunching that data to look for patterns. “Big data” is coming to campaign finance law.