Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A New Look for Campaign Finance Data

Just in time for Election Day, the Federal Election Commission has launched phase one of beta.fec.gov, where it is testing new features for federal campaign finance data. The new site offers a slick new design compared to the long-running FEC Campaign Finance Disclosure Portal, which remains online as well while the beta site is developed.

The beta site currently includes a glossary of campaign finance terms, as well as a new look for campaign finance data. Users can search for an overview of an individual candidate or committee, and can also use the Receipts feature to search for an individual or corporate contributor.
  • Candidate information includes a summary of campaign financial operations, as well as links to required filings, such as financial disclosures and statements declaring candidacy. Compare, for example, leading 2016 presidential primary candidates Dr. Ben Carson and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
  • Committee information includes candidates' principal campaign committees as well as political action committees. For example, late night television host Stephen Colbert formed a Super PAC in 2011 dubbed "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" in an elaborate response to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court opinion on free speech rights of corporations in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The FEC information page for the now-defunct Super PAC includes financial summaries and links to required filings, which likely contain more comedic commentary than most FEC disclosures.
  • Receipts are available since 2011, and include federal election contributions from individuals (including corporate entities) and committees. For an example, see the last few years of contributions from the Duke Energy Corporation.
The site also includes an improved map to find data by location, and will be adding more features over time. Planned additions include a portal for advisory opinions, an overview of the candidate registration process, and the ability to easily export customized data. The beta site already includes the OpenFEC API, allowing developers to use FEC campaign data for non-commercial projects.

Keep an eye on the new FEC beta site for more features as they are developed, and remember that the existing Campaign Financial Disclosure Portal remains online for information that isn't yet available on the new site. For help with research federal campaign data, be sure to Ask a Librarian.