Managing and Leveraging Political Data

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Facilitated by Neil Drumm, MAPLight Developer, Drupal developer, api.drupal.org, drupal.org theme.

Neil will share his stories about making sense of FEC, GovTrack and other “political” data. In his work on the MAPLight project, Neil has become a reluctant expert on FEC (Federal Election Commission) data, and has worked with a range of information types. This session will focus on the range of data sources MAPLight is working with and mashing up, and Neil will share his experiences in making sense of these mountains of arcane but essential data.

political data

Scraping data.

People are looking for

  • campaign finance; campaign contribution data
  • grants and grant makers
  • community health
  • voter files
  • voter information & education
  • katrina and rebuilding; related political data
  • legislative scorecards; legislator voting records;
  • emissions; renewable energy incentives

Where should you look for data?

NIMSP / National Institute for Money in State Politics (Follow the Money dot Org)

CRP / Center for Responsive Politics (Open Secrets dot org)

Govtrack.us (provides bills and votes as XML)

watchdog.net

Best Practices

  • Keep a copy of the original data
  • First migrate into a database;
  • then migrate to the database fields you need;

For instance: * download Govtrack RSS feed that shows recent votes * use that to queue up bills to download


Tools

  • Drupal Legislature Module
  • HTML Tidy is indispensable;
  • Push tidy HTML into an XML parser

Challenges

  • There isn't consistency at the state level;
  • Relationships dictate who has the data; who will share the data;

How do you make the case?

  • Who is doing a good job of making the case that the data should be free, as data? What does that case look like?
  • There is a Google Group where people can give input the the FEC (poliparse@groups.google.com)

Who's Using It

  • Drum Major Institute tracks bills using the drupal legislature module to populate their scorecard (as part of their "middle class" project);