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How to easily set up a campaign finance database

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No one does federal-level campaign finance better than the Center for Responsive Politics, and for the last year or so, they've outdone themselves by making all of their databases--millions of records that a staff of human beings tirelessly cleans up--available, for free, in their entirety. 

The only downside? The scale of CRP's research is so wide that we're talking dozens of frequently-updated tables with hundreds of fields. Downloading each CSV and importing into a database with fields properly named and sized is tedious and time-consuming.

The Sunlight Foundation has written a simple script that allows reporters and ...

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Former health policy aides try to shape ex-employers’ positions from K Street

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At least 69 people formerly employed by some of the 40 or so Congressional leaders present at yesterday's healthcare summit have gone through the revolving door to lobby for the health industry, representing a combined 180 companies and trade associations, Center for Responsive Politics data shows. Many worked on health issues as Hill aides, garnering policy chops on the issues that matter to health insurance companies, medical professionals associations, and pharmaceutical companies. But they also have easier access to their former colleagues on Capitol Hill.

As Nancy Pelosi's chief of staff, Judith Lemons served continuously as the House ...

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Health industry lobbyists have hosted scores of fundraisers for summit attendees

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An on-the-fly analysis by the Sunlight Foundation shows that 84 lobbyists who represent a combined 266 health care and medical association interests have hosted a total of 61 fundraisers--that we know about--benefiting the campaigns of 18 of the approximately 40 Congressional leaders in attendance at today's health care summit.

That's not including fundraisers hosted by the companies' and trade groups' PACs themselves, though they also host such events. Maybe these lobbyists just wanted to make sure these lawmakers had enough funds to pay their monthly premiums?

Here's the list, compiled by matching host names from PoliticalPartytime.org ...

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SunlightLive covers health care summit

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The Sunlight Foundation has all hands on deck today providing context for today's bipartisan healthcare summit in real time. Stay tuned all day for updates.

A quick analysis of Center for Responsive Politics data shows that when campaign contributions to the group of roughly 40 party leaders present are tallied, the health professional, insurance, pharmaceutical, hospital and health services/HMO industries all rank within the top 16--meaning those tasked with reforming the industry have also relied upon it more heavily than almost any other to stay in office. (Lobbyists rank 7th.)

Top-contributing industries, 2009-2010

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Potential Murtha successor Norm Dicks knows the favor factory

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The abrupt passing of Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.) left many wondering who would replace the King of Pork as chair of the Defense Appropriations subcommitteebut anyone hoping his replacement might bring relief from a reputation for trading favors, rewarding campaign contributors and steering lucrative contracts to home districts would likely be disappointed by the pool of potential successors.  

Yesterday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer floated the name of Norm Dicks, whose home state of Washington houses Boeing Co., as the likely next chair. Boeing is the second-largest recipient of federal contracting money, at $22.3 billion in fiscal year 2009 ...

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My dog ate my stimulus: Best of Recovery recipients’ excuses

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The Obama administration has made an unprecedented effort to use technology to publicly chronicle the flow of massive amounts of stimulus money, but government is slow to adapt, and not all of those who do business with it are so tech-savvy. 

Inaccuracies in Recovery.gov data, from too-high job creation numbers to dollar amounts for awards given as "999999999" (probably as a placeholder) to reams of blank fields, make it difficult to assess how well or poorly the stimulus is doing. Many of those problems can be laid at the feet of those providing the information: the recipients of grants ...

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Ruling may free corporate influencers from contortions

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The Supreme Court's Citizens United vs. FEC ruling undoes years of restrictions on the ability of corporations and labor unions to use their treasuries to attempt to sway elections.

But a more accurate interpretation might be that it allows them to be more up-front about it.

From the first days after President George W. Bush signed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, better known as McCain-Feingold, huge sums of unregulated money have flowed from multi-billion dollar businesses, powerful labor unions and wealthy individuals with the intent of advancing their agendas and swaying political opinion, often in hidden or ...

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