Users who want to get information about individual contributions to political candidates can go to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) website to so do. The FEC today provides full access to and full disclosure of individual contributions to all political committees.
However, retrieving the FEC data and working with it is tedious as the FEC's systems have expanded across the years, the data processes are slow, and the public data interfaces aren't user friendly.
There are two key difficulties when using the FEC's data:
- Disparate data across different sources
- The data is spread across varied sources as FEC's data processing cycle can take months. The different types of data, namely the processed and unprocessed data have to be pulled from different endpoints. Furthermore, to pinpoint recent individual donors by their exact locations, the raw uploaded filings of each recipient committee have to be downloaded and parsed one by one.
- The sources for full individual donor information vary depending on the amount of a contribution. For example, earmarked contributions to a candidate's committee over an intermediary committee (e.g. ActBlue or WinRed) only have to be fully disclosed by the recipient if it exceeds $200 in the current cycle. To gather the complete individual donor information, all intermediaries' filings have to be searched by parsing all recent electronic filings of all committees for earmarks, which can be in the thousands in quantity.
- Tedious and time-consuming data analysis
- Access to the FEC data is very limited and gives only sequential access to the raw data. The current bulk download option by FEC provides a fragmented section of data. To conduct data analytics and aggregation (by using SQL), one would have to painstakingly download data from the various sources (that often have traffic-limited API endpoints) and raw filings.
- After the tedious process to combine the individual donation data from all these sources, the data analyst can then refine the data to gain new insights and create value for their audience.
For more information on getting data from the Federal Election Commission (FEC), please refer to the section Federal Election Commission (FEC)'s data.
We have personally faced these challenges during our studies on contributions for political candidates and noticed that there is no existing solution to tackle this problem. These pain points motivated us to create the FEC Data Platform.
Updated over 3 years ago