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6 to 7:30 pm Tuesday 7 Oct 2008

Page history last edited by Tom Johnson 15 years, 10 months ago

6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 7 Oct. 2008- "Yup, it IS about following the money.  But how to make sense of those numbers?"

Every election season, new web sites come along that make it easier to follow the money -- election money.  Tonight we will look at some of those and focus on how to get that data off the web site and into a spreadsheet.  Then what?  A short intro to slicing-and-dicing the numbers.  (Even if you are a spreadsheet maven, please come and act as a coach.)



  • Federal Election Commisson www.fec.gov
    • Go to 2008 House and Senate Campaign Finance http://www.fec.gov/DisclosureSearch/mapHSApp.do
    • Click on the map and NM http://www.fec.gov/DisclosureSearch/mapHSApp.do?drillLevel=state&stateName=NM
    • Click on map and House Dist. NM-3 http://www.fec.gov/DisclosureSearch/HSRefreshCandList.do?category=disH&stateName=NM&congressId=03
    • Scroll down, noting the different variables as you do so.  Click on Lujan


    • Study the page, i.e. "interviewing the database." 
      • Get a laboratory book or keep a file open in Google Documents or Google Notebook.  Key is to keep track of your process, sites, sources and methods.  Think like Edison!

        A resource for Desktop Notekeeping utilities:  http://www.panvasoft.com/eng2/list1/1/5/

      • Why the + or - next to "Contributor Name"?  It indicates that by clicking, you can (or have) sort, usually alphabetically, the entire data set by SOME of the variables.  In fact, the Variable name often doesn't need the symbol.
      • Scroll through the records, somewhat casually looking for "curiosities."  The "Hmmmm, that's odd or interesting" stuff.
      • Most important -- and generous -- on the part of the agency is the big button upper right "Export to Excel."  But first, decide which variable you want sorted.  Yes, you can and will sort by the other later, but start by thinking about the question(s) you will initially ask:  i.e. Are we interested in the most to the least amount of contribution?  Or do we first want to find out how far afield are the contributions coming from.  (To what degree is Young Ben getting out-of-state money?)
    • Walk through how to copy data off web site and paste into Excel

    • Demo how easy it is to "Export to Excel." 

      • 1st step: create new row and insert URL in that row at the top or use the "INSERT -->COMMENT" command

      • Click on green triangle in some of the cells.  Discuss why it is important that the spreadsheet gods recognize the difference between characters that are TEXT and characters that are NUMERALS.

      • Note that not all of the headers -- or labels -- for the columns/variable came in.  Enter them.

      • Why the "Memo Code"?  Just about every candidate will have to return come contributions for often very good and legit reasons.  A good, up-to-date DB will enter those types of transactions.

      • Now that you have the data in YOUR spreadsheet, you can start to sort it in various ways and also create your own "Memo" column.  HOWEVER, NEVER NEVER DO YOUR ANALYTIC WORK ON YOUR ORIGINAL DATA.  SAVE THIS WITH AN EASILY RECOGNIZABLE NAME -- ORIGINAL LUJAN CONTRIBUTIONS FEC.  THE SAVE IT AGAIN "ORIGINAL LUJAN CONTRIBUTIONS FEC v2"  And every time you make major changes, save again with a slightly new file name.  Enter these steps in your Lab Record as well.


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