Team Z members: Chao Lam (developer), Chinse Taylor (business admin), Dave Gilson (journalist, Mother Jones), Sam Davis (data scientist), Josh Loftus (statistician), Garance Burke (journalist, AP)
Brief description of project: Big donors of elections past—where are they now? Our team created a tool that tracks political giving by individuals who were major donors in federal elections prior to 2010 but appear to be giving less now.
The project is designed to help journalists and researchers who want to trace major donors' giving patterns and how they have changed over time. By identifying donors who appear to be giving considerably less than they did in the past, reporters might generate stories that answer some of these questions:
- Why do major donors decide to stop contributing to campaigns, parties, and outside spending groups?
- Have these donors shifted their money from federal races to state races? (Or lobbying?)
- How do donors' financial fortunes determine their levels of giving?
- Are these donors potential super-PAC donors who simply have not given yet in 2012?
- Is it possible that these donors have shifted their money to 501(c)(4) groups that do not disclose their donors?
Step-by-step: We created a Google spreadsheet where we imported, cleaned, and aggregated federal and state giving data for more than 400 individuals listed by OpenSecrets as the top federal donors for the 2000-2012 election cycles.
We then added scripts that used the Influence Exlporer API to pull federal and state giving data from the 2000-2012 election cycles for each individual (and spouses).
The scripts pasted the data into a new sheet, summarized it, and pasted it into a template that could be pasted into the main sheet or Excel for further cleaning or analysis.
Additional information about 527 giving from OpenSecrets was also included. After the compiling the data, we visualized sample data for 10 individuals and identified some questions that might be answered by old-fashioned reporting.
We also used R to visualize the giving records of 24 individuals over time.
What we started with: OpenSecrets top donors lists, Influence Explorer contributor data/API, OpenSecrets' 527 donor database, GGPlot2
Prize categories: Any and all