ProPublica: Introducing FEC Itemizer

A Tool to Research Federal Election Spending

By Derek Willis
ProPublica

The Federal Election Commission has long made filings that show federal candidates’ fundraising and spending available to the public. But it’s not always easy to find the latest information, such as who’s donated money and where it’s being spent. Today we’re releasing FEC Itemizer to make this work easier for journalists, researchers and citizens.

The interactive database provides a simple way to browse individual contributions and expenditures reported by federal political committees shortly after they are submitted.

Most committees file reports on a regular schedule – monthly or quarterly. With so many committees active in the election, that means new or amended filings are published every day. The data in the reports can be rich, showing who donates money to the committee and where the committees spend their money.

If you know the name of a committee that you’re looking for, NextGen Climate Action for example, you can search for it and then see filings for a particular two-year election cycle. Or you can browse filings by date. Looking at filings is easy, too. You can sort the itemized records by amount, date or name, and if you find something worth remembering, you can get a permalink to each record.

FEC Itemizer relies on The New York Times Campaign Finance API, which checks fornew filings every 15 minutes. These filings aren’t considered official by the FEC, which publishes official data every Monday morning, but they are the first look at detailed financial information from federal political committees. Not all committees are included: Senate candidate and party committees still file their reports on paper. But if you’re looking for presidential committees, national and state parties, or super PACs, FEC Itemizer will have them.

If you’re looking for presidential activity, campaigns (like Hillary Clinton’s) and their supporting super PACs (like Right to Rise USA, which backs Jeb Bush) have filed reports covering the first six months of the year. Most committees involved in the presidential race will next file in October, but independent committees airing television ads or paying for canvassers need to file on a more frequent basis.

FEC Itemizer started life as a personal project that I worked on with Aaron Bycoffe, who now works at FiveThirtyEight. This is its first release for a wider audience.

If you have any questions or see anything amiss, email me at derek.willis@propublica.org.

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