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:
|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.