Steve has asked a question about reconciling summary information about PAC contributions to candidates with the detailed reporting of those contributions. It's an important issue that sheds some light into the complexity of the reporting and processing of this information here at the FEC.
The specific example Steve asks about involves Congressman Ron Paul of Texas during the 2005-2006 election cycle. When he looks at the campaign summary for the Paul Campaign (http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/cancomsrs/?_06+H6TX22101) he finds the total for Non Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Committees of $31,740. When he clicks on the link that displays the specific contributions, though, he sees transactions that total $33,986. Why the discrepancy?
The short answer is that the information in the summary listing comes from a different source than the list of specific contributions. Beginning in 2008, if you use the campaign finance map to find candidates and view summaries you will also see details for PAC contributions from the same source, so you shouldn't have these discrepancies. Each financial report submitted by a campaign (actually any) committee must include a summary of the financial activity for the period of the report, and one of the elements in that summary is a total for "Contributions from Other Political Committees (such as PACs)." (For those keeping score at home this is Line 11c of FEC Form 3.) These values for each report are summed to get the total ($31,740 in this case) that appears in the campaign summary. We use this as the source for the summaries because it can be processed very quickly, making these summaries complete through any filings received the day before the report is generated.
The details of these PAC and other contributions are actually reported to the FEC in two different ways - once by the PACs and other committees who make the contributions and again by the campaign committees who receive them. In the old days when everything came on paper and resources for computerizing information were limited, the Commission determined that the best single source for these details would be the reports of the PACs who made the contributions. (There were several reasons, the PACs often filed more frequently so we would get information from them sooner, campaign committees were sometimes less organized so their reports were sometimes harder to work with, PAC names will vary - using acronyms or abbreviations - etc. For example, two contributions to the Paul campaign from the National Association of Realtors appear to have been reported by the campaign as coming from TREPAC.)
Discrepancies between summary totals and details can appear for a number of reasons. Sometimes summaries include transactions that wouldn't normally be reported on that particular line, or because the timing of reporting and processing will be different for donors and recipients during the course of the current campaign cycle, etc.
For the time period from January 1, 2005 through December 31, 2006 there are three contributions on the detailed list that don't appear to be included in the campaign's reports for the "contributions from other political committees" line. There is $500 from the National Right to Work Committee, $1,000 from Road to Victory PAC, and a $901 in-kind contribution from Robinson for Congress. These may have been reported on different lines, or the receipt of one or more may have been delayed long enough for them to appear on a 2007 report from the campaign, or they may have been missed.
On the flip side, there are three transactions in the campaign's reports that don't appear in the list as reported by givers, $70 from Bednarik for Congress, $50 from Paul Flum Idea Center, and $20 from Advancedmart. In addition, there are a couple of detailed transactions in the campaign reports ($100 through Club for Growth and $500 through National Association of Broadcasters PAC) that were really earmarked contributions from individuals which would normally appear on a different line (11a rather than 11c). These are marked as "memo" transactions in the campaign report so they aren't counted in the total for the summary.
We're trying to make this less complicated as we move forward. Now that we receive House campaign reports electronically we're able to use the information from those filings more comprehensively. If you were to look at the Campaign Finance Maps on our homepage for either 2008 or 2010 and you clicked through to the Paul campaign in Texas you would find summary and detailed information about PAC contributions coming directly from the campaign reports so you wouldn't have the discrepancy in these presentations of the information. We'll also continue to provide the information as reported by the PACs and others who are making contributions, but you should know that reconciling these two sources involves lots of moving parts and can require considerable manual effort.