As promised, we've added a 2010 candidate summary file to the list at data.fec.gov. This file contains a record for each candidate who has registered with us or appears on a state ballot for a 2009 or 2010 Congressional race.
For those of you who have been using data from our ftp server over the years, this file is analagous to the "webl.zip" files - the same rules for including candidates and calculating totals. The big differences here are that we've included ALL of the information reported by campaigns on the summary and detailed summary pages of their filings in this file, where webl only included a subset of this information. So, for example, the candidate summary includes the total received by the campaign in contributions from individuals where the specific contributions sum to less than $200 per person so the specific information doesn't have to be included in the filing. This will hopefully help people get a sense of the full breakdown of contributions by size.
Check out the "customize data" box - it allows you to isolate just candidates in a certain state or district or just one party or just challengers or open seat candidates, among other options. As always, you can sort the results however you choose and/or download the data in different formats.
The data in this file matches what you see when you use the 2010 campaign finance map and adds (we hope) another level of comprehensiveness and flexibility to our presentation of campaign finance information.
Let us know what you think.
Steve has asked a question about reconciling summary information about PAC contributions to candidates with the detailed reporting of those contributions. It's an important issue that sheds some light into the complexity of the reporting and processing of this information here at the FEC.[Read More]
Quick question -- as we build more data files in XML, we need to know how descriptive the tags for data elements should be. We'll always try to give clear and comprehensive definitions for the data in the metadata pages, but the tags themselves might be abbreviated pretty extensively in order to reduce the size of the files. Would these abbreviated tags pose a problem for you in the way you expect to use the data? Or is it ok for us to be a little cryptic in the tagging itself so long as we're thorough somewhere else?
This will become much more important very soon as we build the process for downloading detailed information about contributions and expenditures. These files will ultimately contain millions of records (with a query process on the front end that will allow you to focus on just those entries you're interested in) so XML with long tags becomes a problem.
Post a comment to let us know how you feel. Thanks
There was an interesting post on The Scoop (Derek Willis' weblog on investigative and computer assisted reporting) yesterday that focused on a couple of characteristics of FEC data that deserve more discussion.[Read More]
When you're looking at the new data formats at data.fec.gov, be sure to play with the "Customize Data" button that appears to the right of the format options after you've clicked on a specific file.
This feature is intended to help you focus on a subset of campaigns or committees. The Leadership PAC list, for example, allows for searches for specific sponsors (i.e. members or candidates who sponsor the PAC) or just those committees that have raised or spent more than some threshold amount that you can choose.
You could do this yourself with the data from the files themselves, but sometimes the volume of data may make it better to narrow the focus before you download the data.
Let us know if there are other search options that would be helpful for these files.
We've gotten a question about identification of Native American Tribes in the data about specific contributions. Tribes are permitted to make contributions under most of the same rules that apply to individuals - e.g. they can contribute up to $2,400 per election to candidates for federal office.
Isolating these contributions from tribes can be tricky and it is
especially difficult to see how much one tribe has given overall
because different campaigns or committees might use variations on the
name of the tribe when they report the contributions. The comment asks
if we have plans to assign specific ID numbers to these tribes to help
with that aggregation.
This is the place where we'll try to help you through the mechanics of using FEC information, give you information about our plans for the future, ask for your help as we think about and develop new disclosure tools, and where you can share ideas and techniques for working with data from the Commission.[Read More]
We have created a new file containing information about Leadership PACs. Members of Congress and other political leaders often establish nonconnected committees, general known as "leadership PACs," to support candidates for various federal and nonfederal offices. A leadership PAC is defined as a political committee that is directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled by a candidate or an individual holding federal office, but is not an authorized committee of the candidate or officeholder and is not affiliated with an authorized committee of a candidate or officeholder.[Read More]
Three of the files in the first presentation at data.fec.gov are the result of disclosure requirements in the Honest Leadership Open Government Act. This legislation requires campaigns, party committees and Leadership PACs to disclose the names of lobbyists (or PACs controlled by lobbyists) if they have "bundled" contributions of more than $16,000 to the campaign or party or leadership PAC during six month periods of time. We have also prepared a much more detailed description of the requirements. [Read More]
The file for lobbyist bundling reports is really just the beginning of the story. The next step is to provide the data contained in those reports, and we'll do that in a separate file, at least at the start.[Read More]
We're preparing to release a new summary file focusing on the 2009-2010 financial activity of PACs and parties, and we have some questions we'd like your help with.[Read More]
We're going to try to use this category of the blog to deal with specific questions or problems you find in the data you get from us. If you find something you don't understand or you think is simply wrong - post a comment here and we'll look into it and report back.
I'll probably turn some of the comments into new posts -- threads that deal with common problems or issues - but you can also think of this as the tool to use to make us accountable - everyone will see your questions and whether and how and when we respond to them.
This is the sausage-making, so it may not always be pretty, but contrary to the old adage, I think it will be better if everyone can see it happen. . .
As we get questions from data users in different forums than this one (email, phone calls, etc.) I'll try to keep an eye out for those that deserve a broader audience and we'll post them here.[Read More]