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. One difference between a tribe and an individual, though, is that the tribe doesn't have an overall limit on how much it can contribute to federal campaigns and committees in a two-year period. For 2010 the limit for individual contributors would be $115,500, with no more than $45,600 of that given to candidates and the rest given to PACs or parties.
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.
We assign an ID number to every entity that files a report with us, and doing this helps us insure that whenever we present information about financial activity we are able to compute correct totals. When PACs report their contributions to candidates, for example, we ask them to include the campaign committee ID number as well as the name of the campaign they've given to, and we do the same when campaigns report their receipts from other committees who are registered with us. We also review this information for each filing and add ID numbers when they are missing in the original filings -- this is one of the critical differences between data directly from filings themselves and the information you can get in queries or downloaded data from our ftp server or data.fec.gov.
The problem with tribes (and some other kinds of organizations like partnerships) is that, like individual donors, they don't file their own reports with us so we don't have an official mechanism for determining uniquely who they are or independently verifying that different descriptions of the name really mean the same organization.
This is a long way of saying that the tool we use to create ID numbers and make them work as we intend isn't available for tribes, and unfortunately without that "official" process based on a submission to us from the organization, we don't really have a valid and reliable way of assigning precise IDs to them.