The reporting requirements for Electioneering Communications (the broadcast ads running within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election that make reference to federal candidates but don't "expressly advocate" their election or defeat) are a little different than most everything else we see, so we're struggling with the best way to present the data.
This will be one of the "real time" files we're planning to provide in the catalog this fall.
The problem is that sometimes groups making these communications will report that a single disbursement actually refers to two or more candidates. When we receive these filings electronically, we receive one row that describes the disbursement (i.e. who got paid, how much, when, for what purpose) and then we receive two or more rows with different structures that identify the candidates this payment referred to. These will each have a column that links the candidate record back to the original payment record. (We'll be treating the paper filings the same way as we make data from them.)
We think the best approach to providing these data is to give you this same structure - i.e. for each specific disbursement there will be one or more linked records with the candidate identifications. There are other possibilities, though so we'd like to hear from you if you have ideas for a better way to organize these.When this is resolved we'll post schemas so people can prepare for the release of actual data. We're still looking at Labor Day as a target for offering near real time updates to files with this information along with independent expenditure reports.
Finally, I want to take a moment of personal privilege to mention the passing of the one person most responsible for building the electronic disclosure program here from the earliest days of the Commission's history. There were a few people who began working here in the mid to late 70's who recognized the importance of a core set of principles that have driven our work ever since. The need for consistency in the presentation of information, always maintaining the ability to move from data back to the original source material (in those days, microfilm copies of paper reports) and from the reports themselves to financial summaries linked to details. Even the simple idea that it wasn't good enough to just present raw material, whether it was paper reports or images on the web - that we had an obligation to manufacture data from those reports to take full advantage of what the computer could do. These seem so basic now that we don't even think about them. At the FEC the way those principles took shape was through the work and with the guidance of Jim Pehrkon.
Every small success we've been able to achieve, whether it be the campaign finance maps or the data catalog or systems for searching through enforcement materials and advisory opinionis - all of those rest on foundations Jim conceived and encouraged. He did this by seeking out creative ideas and allowing, no, encouraging people to try things even if they failed. He allowed us to concentrate on doing the basic work as well as we could and he understood and appreciated everyone's effort. It's not the stereotype for how government agencies supposedly operate, and it made this a great place to work. Many of us will be forever grateful that he gave us a chance to share that experience.
Let us know what you think about the structure of the Electioneering Communications data.