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NYTimes Announces Campaign Finance API

The New York Times has just announced an API that makes available the data they have gleaned from the Federal Election Commission’s electronic filings for the presidential candidates.

“The initial version of the Campaign Finance API offers overall figures for presidential candidates, as well as state-by-state and ZIP code totals for specific candidates. In addition, the API supports a contributor name search using any of the following parameters: first name, last name and ZIP code.”

This allows people with the appropriate technical skills to build mashups and other web services that take a look at donations by individual or by area with relative ease. In essence it is now possible for web developers to create views on this valuable data that previously would have involved digging through millions of FEC electronic filings.

It should also be possible for researchers with moderate technical knowledge to analyze the individual contributions going to candidates to perform statistical and other analysis on what makes for a very interesting dataset.

The New York times providing this service is certainly a positive step towards helping people make use of what is one of the richest (pun not intended) datasets the federal government has to offer.

MAPLight.org

“What used to take hours to dig up and analyze is now laid bare for you to see in seconds or minutes,” so states the homepage of MAPLight.org, a new website that brings together campaign contributions and how legislators vote, creating more transparency of the connections between money and politics. This includes:

– How each legislator voted on each of the 5,000 bills in the 2003-2004 California legislative session.

– All campaign contributions made to each legislator from 2001-2004, categorized by the interest or industry of the contributor.

– Supporters and opponents of each bill, and the industries and interests those supporters and opponents represent.

– A brief description of each bill, and the subject the bill is about.

– The full text of each bill, including committee reports and amendments.

So far, MAPLight.org currently includes all 5,000 bills in the 2003-2004 California legislative session and all California campaign contributions from January 2001 through December 2004. They are seeking donations and support to extend MAPLight.org to include data for other states and U.S. Congress. This is a very promising project, so let’s give them our support!

Follow the Oil Money

Well lookee here…a website that tracks petroleum industry campaign contributions, called Follow the Oil Money.

I did a zip code/name search, and not surprisingly, Texas and Louisiana congressmen received quite a bit of campaign funds from the oil industries and they voted for “big oil” 65-100% of the time.

And did you know that George W. Bush received $2,649,725 in oil contributions during the 2004 election campaign? John Kerry received $184,037. In 2008, Rudy Giuliani received $659,158 and Barack Obama received $163,840. The presidential races page told me so.

Their visual charts are pretty amusing. They compare them to Facebook or MySpace, “in which companies and politicians have become ‘friends’ by giving money”.

For more information, including how they get their data, go to FAQ page.

Evaluating states’ efforts to bring sunlight to political money

Grading State Disclosure, 2007: Evaluating states’ efforts to bring sunlight to political money. A Report by the California Voter Foundation, with the Center for Governmental Studies and the UCLA School of Law A Publication of the Campaign Disclosure Project, Supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Grading State Disclosure is a study of the Campaign Disclosure Project, which seeks to bring greater transparency and accountability to money in state politics through [evaluations] of state disclosure laws and programs.  The Campaign Disclosure Project is a collaboration of the UCLA School of Law, the Center for Governmental Studies and the California Voter Foundation and is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts.  The Grading State Disclosure series is produced by the California Voter Foundation, with assistance from the Center for Governmental Studies and the UCLA School of L

A fourth, nationwide [evaluation] of state-level campaign finance disclosure programs has found that 36 states received passing grades, while 14 states failed to meet this study’s criteria for a satisfactory campaign disclosure program. The number of states that passed the 2007 [evaluation] increased by two over the 2005 study, and findings contained in Grading State Disclosure 2007 demonstrate the continued trend of improved campaign disclosure practices at the state level as identified in the previous three studies.

Grading State Disclosure 2007 evaluated four specific areas of campaign finance disclosure: state campaign disclosure laws; electronic filing programs; accessibility of campaign finance information; and the usability of state disclosure web sites.

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