It was a party atmosphere Monday night at the Columbia Missourian as members of the Public Life team munched pizza and worked together for hours to make data from campaign finance reports in area political races available to our readers.
Candidates were required by 5 p.m. Monday to file quarterly finance reports with the Missouri Ethics Commission. The Missourian collected reports filed by candidates for statewide office, those running for area seats in the General Assembly and for those seeking the offices of Boone County commissioner and public administrator. We created graphics comparing the amounts raised and showing top donations, plus we shared PDFs of the actual reports with our readers.
Perhaps the coolest thing of all, though, was the interactive database Steven Rich and the rest of the reporters were able to create. Steven had been scraping data from finance reports filed earlier in the campaigns. So, once we went through the quarterly reports line by line and entered the most recent data on contributions, we were able to to create a searchable database that allows readers to answer their own questions about campaign finance in Boone County and area legislative races.
Want to know which candidate for county commissioner got the most donations from Centralia? Simply type “Centralia” into the search field.
Want to know which candidate for the state legislature got the most donations from New York residents? Type in “NY,” and you’ll find out in half a second.
Readers also can easily download the database and use their own software to analyze it.
It’s our position at the Missourian that simply telling readers which candidate has the most money isn’t good enough. Reports on campaign finances help voters make decisions only when they provide context and meaning. In the coming days, our reporters will be interviewing the data to find interesting trends, to learn who is contributing to whom and to turn those patterns into helpful stories. We invite you to do the same.