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Metadata Description

Metadata description of Candidate Disbursements File

General Description

This file contains all itemized disbursements reported by a candidate for either the House or Senate during the current election cycle. This includes any candidate who ran in a regular House or Senate campaign, along with all candidates in special elections in either the odd numbered year or the election year.

Campaign committees are required to disclose all specific disbursements that are contributions to other federal candidates or parties or other committees as well as all loan repayments. For other spending (normal operating expenses, for example or contributions to state or local candidates) specific disbursements must be disclosed when the amount paid to any one vendor exceeds $200 in an election cycle. You can learn more about the reporting requirements for candidates by reviewing the FEC's Campaign Guide

Each row in the file contains information about the committee (and the candidate) that filed the report, along with the name and address of the entity that received the payment, the date and amount of the transaction, a description of its purpose along with links to other transactions that might be associated.

Information is taken from the most recent report submitted for each time period during the election cycle. Campaigns are generally required to file on a quarterly basis, with additional reports submitted just prior to either primary or general elections, and another report coming 30 days after the general election. For electronically filed reports, if a committee submits an original report and then amends that filing at a later date only the transactions from the amended report are included in this file. For committees filing paper reports, the data reflect the most recent reporting of any transaction, whether from a new or an amended filing.

Some Details about the Data

There are some characteristics of reporting that will be important as you use this information. Some transactions, for example, are marked as "memo entries" which means that the dollar amount for these entries was not included in any totals computed by the committee. These are necessary for some simple accounting reasons. For example, when a campaign pays a credit card bill they must report the transaction to the card company along with the lump sum paid for that month. In addition, however, the committee must also list any of the specific charges from that bill if they meet the reporting thresholds - i.e. if the total paid to a particular vendor exceeds $200 during the election cycle. This would mean that the same payment appears twice so one of the elements (in this case the detailed charges) are identified as memos. This will be important if you're calculating totals - be careful not to add both the credit card payments and the specific charges from those bills.

 

The FEC has also created a blog to discuss features of these files and respond to your questions or comments.

Information contained in the file

The Candidate disbursement file contains the following information:

Tag Field Name Data Type Description Range Explanation
com_id Committee ID Character Character C followed by eight digits 9 characters Unique nine digit identifier used by the Commission to identify each political committee. In general committee id's begin with the letter C which is followed by eight
com_nam Committee Name Character Name of committee or other entity registered with the FEC Max 90 characters This is the name of the committee
can_id Candidate ID Character   9 characters First character indicates office sought - H=House, S=Senate, P=Presidential. Columns 3-4 are the state abbreviation for Congressional candidates
can_nam Candidate name Character Name of the candidate Max 38 characters List of all disclosure filings for this committee
ele_yea Election year Number   4 characters General election year of the cycle in which this candidate is running
can_off Candidate Office Text Office abbreviation 1 character P=President; S=Senate; H=House
can_off_sta Candidate Office State Character Postal abbreviation for State 2 characters  
can_off_dis Candidate Office District Number District number for House candidates 2 characters  
lin_num Line number from Detailed Summary Page of FEC Form 3 Character category of disbursement based on detailed summary page of FEC Form 3 max 12 characters Description of Form 3 (See page 6 of these instructions)
lin_ima Link to image presentation URI Page where transaction may be viewed as image 11 characters  
rec_com_id Recipient Committee ID Character Character C followed by eight digits 9 characters If the disbursement goes to another committee registered with the FEC, this would be the ID number of the committee receiving the payment
rec_nam Recipient Name Text   max 90 characters Name of the person or vendor or other entity receiving this payment from the committee
rec_str1 Recipient Street Address Character Street address of entity being paid max 34 characters  
rec_str2 Apt. number or Suite number for recipient Character   max 34 characters  
rec_cit recipient city Text   max 18 characters  
rec_sta recipient state Text   2 characters postal state abbreviation
rec_zip recipient zip Character   max 9 characters zip code may be either 5 or 9 digits
dis_dat date of disbursement Date date of specific disbursement    
dis_amo amount of disbursement Number amount spent 14.2 characters  
dis_pur_des purpose description     max 100 characters Open-ended description of the purpose of the disbursement.
mem_cod memo code Character   1 Character record is "memo" so not included in totals, e.g. specific charges that are also included in an overall credit card payment
mem_tex memo text Character   max 100 characters explanation for the memo notation
cat_cod category code Number   3 characters see the list of category codes
cat_des category description Character   max 40 characters description of category for disbursement
tra_id transaction id Character unique identifier for the transaction (unique within the specific report) max 32 characters  
bac_ref_id back reference id Character link to another transaction max 20 characters "parent" transaction id where there is a relationship between two transactions - e.g. a detailed charge that is part of a credit card payment