These files contain the most recent 10 years of data, the current election cycle plus the most recent five (5) election cycles. These files are updated each Sunday and include data entered into the FEC database through that date. Please note that complete entry from each reporting period takes about 30 days. It is important to be careful when making conclusions from these data because some information may not have completed the entry process when these files where created.
The committee master file contains one record for each committee registered with the Federal Election Commission. This includes federal political action committees and party committees, campaign committees for presidential, house and senate candidates, as well as groups or organizations who are spending money for or against candidates for federal office.
The file contains basic information about the committees. The ID number the Commission assigned to the committee is first, along with the name of the committee, the sponsor, where appropriate, the treasurer's name and the committee's address. The file also includes information about what type of committee is being described, along with the candidate's ID number if it is a campaign committee
The candidate master file contains one record for each candidate who has either registered with the Federal Election Commission or appeared on a ballot list prepared by a state elections office.
The file contains basic information about the candidate, including name, party, whether the candidate is an incumbent, challenger, or involved in an open seat, address, state and district in which the candidate is running and the year of the election for which the candidate is registered. (Note that incumbent/challenger status is dynamic in the current election cycle and there may be delays in identifying districts that will involve open seats. The file also includes the ID number assigned to the candidate by the FEC which is used in tracking campaign finance information about the campaign, as well as the ID number of the candidate's principal campaign committee.
The individual contributions file contains each contribution from an individual to a federal committee if the contribution was at least $200. It includes the ID number of the committee receiving the contribution, the name, city, state, zip code, and place of business of the contributor along with the date and amount of the contribution. NOTE: this file can be very large file.
The individual contributions file is so big now that we've tried to set up a process for updating the file, rather than downloading a new version each week. The following three files represent additions, changes, and deletions from the individual contributions file that have taken place during the last week. If you downloaded the full file last week (or have been keeping up with updates), this week you can download the additions file, the changes file, and the deletions file and make the adjustments to last weeks data. You will want to add the records in the additions file, replace records that are included in the changes file, and delete from your full file any records in the deletions file. The key to all this is the FEC record number, which uniquely identifies each record in the file. You'll need to do the updates faithfully each week in order to avoid needing the full file again.
The itemized committee contributions file contains each contribution or independent expenditure made by a PAC, party committee, candidate committee, or other federal committee to a candidate during the two-year election cycle. It includes the ID number of the contributing committee and the ID number of the recipient. You will need to use the committee master and candidate master files in conjunction with this file to set up a relational database to analyze these data.
The itemized records (miscellaneous transactions) file contains all transactions (contributions, transfers, etc. among federal committees). It contains all data in the itemized committee contributions file plus PAC contributions to party committees, party transfers from state committee to state committee, and party transfers from national committee to state committee. Note that this file only includes federal transfers not soft money transactions.