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Campaign Finance Database Is Coming Soon

Posted by Former Blogger Chris Emami on November 27, 2013

I have completed the 2012 Campaign Finance Database and it will go up as a series on the blog starting next week. As a way to give our readers a taste of what they will get starting next week I am going to post the methodology behind the research today:

Methodology

Assignment

Clients have requested original research be conducted, and databases created for the 2012 election cycle[1] contributions to candidates who ran for County Offices, City Offices, School Districts, and Special Districts. Completed research may be found in the later parts of this document which was created from research beginning January 4th 2013 and ending November 18th 2013.

County Offices

  • County office research includes candidates who ran for Orange County Board of Supervisors and Orange County Board of Education.
  • The elections of Orange County Assessor, Auditor-Controller, Clerk-Recorder, District Attorney, Public Administrator, Sheriff-Coroner, Superintendent of Schools, and Treasurer-Tax Collector are not included in this database due to these elections taking place in 2014.
  • The “Form 460”[2] documents for each candidate running for these offices was acquired from the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
  • Once “Form 460” documents were acquired, the data from “Schedule A-Monetary Contributions Received”[3] was transferred to a Microsoft Excel database.
  • Once in the Excel database, each contribution was classified into a specific category for a candidate running for the office; Individuals, Unions, Businesses, Trade Associations, and Political Groups.
  • Once this data sort was finalized, Excel was used to calculate the total amount of money donated to that candidate in each category.
  • These steps were repeated for each candidate.
  • For purposes of this analysis, businesses are defined as a company that conducts any type of business.  Trade associations are defined as an organization that is founded and/or funded by businesses that operate in a specific business sector. Unions are defined as organizations of employees both in the private and public sector that are formed to advance the interests of their members. Individuals are defined as any individual person or couple. Political groups are defined as a Political Action Committee (PAC) which operates for political purposes (i.e. Political parties, candidate controlled committees, etc.)
  • This data once set, was then sent into chart format as well using a function in Microsoft Excel to show contributions (by category) in a pie chart to give a better visual depiction of where money came from for each candidate.
  • Finally, data from Excel was transferred into the later section of this document.

City Offices

  • City office research includes candidates that ran for City Councils, City Treasurers, City Clerks, and City Attorneys.
  • Certain races that did not take place in 2012 will not appear in this database.
  • The “Form 460” documents for each candidate running in these offices was acquired from the City Clerks of each individual city being researched.
  • Once “Form 460” documents were acquired, the data from “Schedule A-Monetary Contributions Received” was transferred to an Excel database.
  • Once in the Excel database, each contribution was classified into a specific category for a candidate running for the office: Individuals, Unions, Businesses, Trade Associations, and Political Groups.
  • Once this data sort was finalized, Excel was used to calculate the total amount of money donated to each candidates in each category.
  • These steps were repeated for each candidate.
  • For purposes of this analysis, businesses are defined as a company that conducts any type of business.  Trade associations are defined as an organization that is founded and/or funded by businesses that operate in a specific business sector. Unions are defined as organizations of employees both in the private and public sector that are formed to advance the interests of their members. Individuals are defined as any individual person or couple. Political groups are defined as a Political Action Committee (PAC) that operates for political purposes (i.e. Political parties, candidate controlled committees, etc.)
  • This data once set, was then sent into chart format as well using a function in Microsoft Excel to show contributions (by category) in a pie chart to give a better visual depiction of where money came from for each candidate.
  • Finally, data from Excel was transferred into this document.

School Districts

  • School District research included candidates who ran for Community College District, Union High School District, Unified School District, and Elementary School District.
  • Certain races that did not take place in 2012 will not appear in this database.
  • The “Form 460” documents for each candidate running in these offices was acquired from the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
  • Once “Form 460” documents were acquired, the data from “Schedule A-Monetary Contributions Received” was transferred to an Excel database.
  • Once in the Excel database, each contribution was classified into a specific category for a candidate running for the office: Individuals, Unions, Businesses, Trade Associations, and Political Groups.
  • Once this data sort was finalized, Excel was used to calculate the total amount of money donated to each candidates in each category.
  • These steps were repeated for each candidate.
  • For purposes of this analysis, businesses are defined as a company that conducts any type of business.  Trade associations are defined as an organization that is founded and/or funded by businesses that operate in a specific business sector. Unions are defined as organizations of employees both in the private and public sector that are formed to advance the interests of their members. Individuals are defined as any individual person or couple. Political groups are defined as a Political Action Committee (PAC) that operates for political purposes (i.e. Political parties, candidate controlled committees, etc.)
  • This data once set, was then sent into chart format as well using a function in Microsoft Excel to show contributions (by category) in a pie chart to give a better visual depiction of where money came from for each candidate.
  • Finally, data from Excel was transferred into this document.

Special Districts

  • Special District research includes candidates who ran for Community Services District, Water District, Sanitary District, Sewer District, Recreation/Park District, and Library District.
  • Certain races that did not take place in 2012 will not appear in this database.
  • The “Form 460” documents for each candidate running in these offices was acquired from the Orange County Registrar of Voters.
  • Once “Form 460” documents were acquired, the data from “Schedule A-Monetary Contributions Received” was transferred to an Excel database.
  • Once in the Excel database, each contribution was classified into a specific category for a candidate running for the office: Individuals, Unions, Businesses, Trade Associations, and Political Groups.
  • Once this data sort was finalized, Excel was used to calculate the total amount of money donated to each candidates in each category.
  • These steps were repeated for each candidate.
  • For purposes of this analysis, businesses are defined as a company that conducts any type of business.  Trade associations are defined as an organization that is founded and/or funded by businesses that operate in a specific business sector. Unions are defined as organizations of employees both in the private and public sector that are formed to advance the interests of their members. Individuals are defined as any individual person or couple. Political groups are defined as a Political Action Committee (PAC) that operates for political purposes (i.e. Political parties, candidate controlled committees, etc.)
  • This data once set, was then sent into chart format as well using a function in Microsoft Excel to show contributions (by category) in a pie chart to give a better visual depiction of where money came from for each candidate.
  • Finally, data from Excel was transferred into this document.

Variables & Other Issues

  • No other websites such as [http://www.followthemoney.org/] [http://www.opensecrets.org/] provide data as it relates to local campaign finance, as most data derived in research is from the California Secretary of State. This means that no other database exists which would provide a comparison for the data in this report.
  • The total amount of campaign contributions may appear slightly lower than might be expected, due to the amount of money that is spent on behalf of candidates through Independent Expenditures (I.E. s). This database consists only of money contributed directly to candidates.
  • Some candidates may have loaned money to their campaigns, which is also not included in this report.
  • Another variable is that reported numbers can change as candidates may amend original campaign finance reports and submit revised reports. All data in this report is accurate as of the day research was completed.

The accuracy of this database is heavily dependent on candidates/campaign treasurers accurately reporting data. Campaign data incorrectly reported due to human error is impossible to detect. Poor penmanship is another factor that causes transcription issues with this type of research.


 

[1] Includes all contributions reported by candidates running for local office on their “Form 460’s” which were turned in reporting contributions received from January 1st 2012 through December 31st 2012”

[2] “Form 460” is the official form as set by the Fair Political Practices Commission used by candidates running for office to report their campaign finance activity.

[3] This part of the “Form 460” includes information on who each contribution came from and what amount they donated to each campaign.

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