By Earl F Glynn | Franklin Center
FEC spokesperson Christian Hilland gave me an overview on Monday in an email of what financial information the Federal Election Commission collects on inaugural committees:
“The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 required, for the first time, inaugural committees to publicly disclose donations to the FEC. The regulations implementing these requirements took effect beginning with the 2004 presidential election, and therefore, we only have inaugural reports from 2005 and 2009. BCRA did not include provisions requiring the disclosure expenditures, debts or residual funds. “
It’s curious to me there is no law to require documentation of expenditures by an inaugural committee, and there is no law to require disclosure about how any residual funds are used. Shouldn’t we have transparency over the disbursements to avoid any appearance of cronyism?
See a recent Sunlight Foundation article, “After the inaugural balls, where does the extra money go?”
Before discussing the the inaugural committee filings available from the new FEC Candidate and Committee Viewer, let’s review the FEC campaign finance data sources.
FEC Campaign Finance Data
The FEC site provides a wealth of campaign finance information, but navigating the FEC web site was sometimes confusing because of two sources of information:
- FEC Data Files from Paper Filings. Historically, paper filings with the FEC were scanned into their imaging system. Images of these paper filings could be viewed online via the old Report Image Search. Data from the paper filings were available in separate files for Committees, Candidates and Individual Contributions. The file format specifications change every election cycle. The FEC shows current “data file” information on this page for the most recent 10 years, with a separate archive page for files back to the 1979-1980 election cycle. This older format of FEC data is available for download on the FEC FTP site in a separate directory by election cycle. For example, the data files for the current 2014 election cycle are in this online directory.
- FEC Electronic Filings. Mandatory electronic filing replaced paper filing starting in January 2001 for campaigns with contributions or expenditures of more than $50,000 per calendar year. There had been some voluntary electronic filings back to 1997. The FEC provided a separate electronic filing search, which provided additional information not available in the older data files. These online electronic filings have over 600 different record formats over eight major versions. Bulk FEC “electronic” files can be downloaded from the FEC FTP site.
The term “electronic file” is a bit confusing since all the old and new files are electronic files. An FEC “electronic file” generally means a file created as a result of an electronic filing versus data files created from paper filings.
As shown below, data from President George W. Bush’s second inaugural in 2005 are from a paper filing, while data from President Barack Obama’s inaugurals in 2009 and 2013 are from electronic filings.
The data from the FEC paper and electronic filings were integrated into the new Candidate and Committee Viewer even though there are still differences between the two sources of campaign finance data.
FEC Form 13
The FEC requires Form 13 be used for a Report of Donations Accepted for Inaugural Committee. Instructions for Form 13 provide definitions and explanations of the data collected.
Candidate and Committee Viewer
A September 20, 2012 FEC press release announced the new Candidate and Committee Viewer to inspect or download information while simplifying searches:
“The Viewer allows users to find campaign finance activity of any federal candidate, political committee, independent expenditure report filer or other report filer through a single search portal instead of conducting multiple searches in different databases on the website. The Viewer brings together cycle-to-date summaries, report summaries, images of reports and statements and downloadable electronic filings to produce an overview of each committee, and it provides both dynamic graphic charts and complete data sets in a downloadable, spreadsheet format to allow users to drill down to and analyze specific transactions.”
Let’s test the new Candidate and Committee Viewer to look for information about inaugural committees.
Start on this page: http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/candcmte_info.shtml.
To find any committee with “inaugural” or “inauguration” in the name, let’s enter “inaugura” in the search box and press “Get Listing”:
The search returns four results:
Note the convenient table export options available on most viewer screens in XML, CSV, or JSON data formats with Metadata information provided about the exported data fields:
We want inaugural committees that are: “X -Non-Qualified Party” committee type and “U-Unauthorized” committee designation:
Inaugural Committees for Last Three U.S. Presidential Elections
|Year||Committee ID||President||Committee Name|
|2005||C00409011||George W Bush||55th Presidential Inaugural Committee|
|2009||C00458166||Barack Obama||Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009|
|2013||C00540005||Barack Obama||Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013|
Because of the design of the web page showing the search results, the links in the ID column cannot be copied and used elsewhere. For example, a direct link to the “C00540005″ committee page is not provided, rather one must start with a viewer search each time to get live links.
Summary information about each inaugural committee is shown below, which can be obtained by clicking on the ID links in the live search box.
2005 Inauguration Committee
- FEC removes four extra $20 million records from 2005 Inaugural Committee Report
- Google Map: Large Donors to Presidential Inaugural 2005
2009 Inauguration Committee
- Analysis of FEC Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009 records
- Google Map: Large Donors to Presidential Inaugural 2009
2013 Inauguration Committee
Information about contributors to to the 2013 inaugural is due in a report to the FEC 90 days after the inauguration.
When that information is available, I’ll attempt to make some comparisons between Barack Obama’s 2nd inaugural and George W. Bush’s 2nd inaugural.
- Analysis of FEC Presidential Inaugural Committee 2009 records, WatchdogLabs, Jan. 18, 2013.
- Google Map: Large Donors to Presidential Inaugural 2009, WatchdogLabs, Jan. 19, 2013.
- FEC removes four extra $20 million records from 2005 Inaugural Committee Report, Watchdog Labs, Jan. 21, 2013.
- Google Map: Large Donors to Presidential Inaugural 2005, WatchdogLabs, Jan. 21, 2013.
- Working with FEC electronic filings
- Downloading and updating local copy of all FEC electronic filings
- Searching all FEC electronic filings without a database
Please, feel free to steal our stuff! Just remember to credit WatchdogLabs.org or the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.
Contact Info: Email: Earl.Glynn@FranklinCenterHq.org, Twitter: @WatchdogLabs, Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WatchdogLabs
Leave a comment