While the Obama administration is working on making government data available on sites like Data.gov for citizens to mash up, a government watchdog group is doing the same for campaign financing information.
The nonpartisan, nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics is making 200 million data records from its archive free for anyone to download for noncommercial purposes on its site OpenSecrets.org.
The organization expects regular citizens to use the information, available in CSV (comma-separated values) format, to analyze funding for political campaigns through projects like charts, maps, and mobile applications. The following data sets are available on the OpenSecrets Action Center:
Campaign finance: 195 million records tracking campaign fundraising and spending by candidates for federal office, dating as far back as the 1989-1990 election cycle. The records also include spending from political parties and political action committees.
Lobbying: 3.5 million records from as far back as 1998 on federal lobbyists, their clients, their fees, and the issues they reported working on.
Personal finances: Reports from 2004 through 2007 detailing the personal assets, liabilities, and transactions of members of Congress and the executive branch. Reports from 2008 will be available to download after they are released to the public in June and the CRP has keyed the reports.
527 organizations: Financial records dating back to the 2004 election cycle for issue-advocacy groups called 527s, which can raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations, or unions.
The Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency organization, is underwriting the OpenData initiative with a three-year $1.2 million grant. The data is being made available through a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license, which allows users to remix and share the center's work noncommercially.
"Putting our data into more hands will put more eyes on Washington and, we hope, engage more Americans in their government," CRP Executive Director Sheila Krumholz said in a statement. "We hope that more people counting cash will lead to more people making change."