Pimp My Campaign Finance Data

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My Google Alerts sucked in this great blog post by Jim at Irregular Times instructing fellow citizen journalists and bloggers how to convert the oft unsearchable FEC data on campaign finance into a readable spreadsheet. Very, very useful and cool.

Of course, to make this even easier you could go to OpenSecrets.org and use their insanely useful database on campaign finance. Let’s see if I can’t replicate Jim’s example, which was to search for members of Congress, Democrats in specific, who voted for the FISA bill, which included immunity for telecom companies that acquiesced to government demands to use their telephone lines for extralegal surveillance.

First things first, I search for AT&T, Inc. as an Organization in the search bar. This will ultimately bring me to the AT&T, Inc. page, where I clicked on Recipients to get this screen:

That’s only part of the screen. Further down, I can see the top recipients of AT&T campaign cash with the ability to view all recipients. For the House, all of this data is up to date, which means that it is through June 30, 2008. One of Jim’s complaints about the regular search feature on the FEC web site is that it did not yet include second quarter data; that’s why he had to go to the actual images of the files. OpenSecrets already uses the exported data from the FEC, so it’s database is updated rapidly.

So, back to the topic at hand. I click on All Recipients, and then filter to House Democrats. Here are the top results from House Democrats:

Name Office Total Contributions
Emanuel, Rahm (D-IL) House $48,950
Ellsworth, Brad (D-IN) House $14,500
Dingell, John D (D-MI) House $10,500
Tanner, John (D-TN) House $10,500
McNerney, Jerry (D-CA) House $10,350
Rush, Bobby L (D-IL) House $10,250
Baca, Joe (D-CA) House $10,000
Berry, Marion (D-AR) House $10,000
Boswell, Leonard L (D-IA) House $10,000
Carson, Andre (D-IN) House $10,000
Davis, Lincoln (D-TN) House $10,000
Donnelly, Joe (D-IN) House $10,000
Matheson, Jim (D-UT) House $10,000
Moore, Dennis (D-KS) House $10,000
Space, Zachary T (D-OH) House $10,000

So there is an easy example of how to use OpenSecrets.org effectively as opposed to the often difficult searching required at the FEC web site. It’s easy and insanely useful.

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  • Very nice.

  • Thanks for the info. I thought that they had all of the updated information, but I guess I was wrong.

  • Jim

    Hey, thanks for the nice mention. I agree that OpenSecrets.org is really useful and has a lot of ready-made analyses.

    Unfortunately, they don’t all the information that the FEC has on contributions available in one place, which is what I was looking for and what you need if you want to be able to answer your own question, like “who were the recipients of contributions from the AT&T Federal PAC in June of 2008?”

    Also, OpenSecrets.org doesn’t actually have the contribution data for June. It has data released by the FEC in June. Contribution data for June was filed about a week ago and is not yet reflected in OpenSecrets.org’s data. (Tim Weldon of Florida, for instance, has received more than the $2,000 listed there.)