Campaign Finance

Ahead of the 2014 federal election I designed and built Realtime FEC for the Sunlight Foundation, a system to independently mirror, download, and reaggregate--in real time--all electronic campaign finance filings received by the Federal Election Commission during the current election. Millions of dollars are reported daily in the final days of a federal campaign; we provided an up-to-the minute summation of what were then enormous sums. We also allowed immediate downloads of the data, and sent alerts to reporters whenever candidates or races they followed were updated. The numbers I generated were used by some of the biggest news providers in the country, from Fox News to the AP to the Colbert Report.

Reaggregating the complete set of electronic filings allowed us to sift and filter the data to present systemic trends and hard-to-spot anomalies. Sorting house candidates for debt helped us identify campaign finance issues in former U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman's filings. Reporting I collaborated with Peter Olsen-Phillips on was cited in the Office of Congressional Ethics referral on the matter, and in the original indictment presented to the grand jury. I've also written in greater detail about where some of the allegedly laundered money came from.

The realtime site vanished when Sunlight pulled the plug*, although busted versions can be found on the internet archive; much of the code is on github.

Steve Stockman, 2013 @ Gage Skidmore

In 2015 I wrote the prototype of the FEC parsing code that the New York Times used for the 2016 elections, taking advantage of variable descriptions first put together in Derek Willis' FECH library. I also worked with NYU School of Journalism professor Meredith Broussard on Bailiwick, a tool that delved deeply into campaign finance during the last cycle.

* In 2016 Sunlight board co-founder, chairman, and funder Mike Klein announced that Sunlight would "discontinue our tool building and database maintenance activities" and Sunlight's tools were turned off. The organization continues to fight for transparency with longtime policy honcho John Wonderlich as executive director.