Our project for the hackathon is to breakdown and visualize campaign finance data in the CIty of Houston in order to promote greater transparency is local government. Our data set originates in the city secretary’s office, who receives submissions from each individual campaign. There are certain requirements on the type of information submitted, but generally, it is all free form text.
We realized early realize that the data we were working with had significant variation. Most of our time spent on this project was cleaning and grouping data. This lack of standardization makes it difficult for the public to understand the full impact of money donated and money spent.
We categorized the way money was handled into 3 buckets: candidates, political office sought, and donors. This breakdown helps show all impact of inflow and outflow of dollars in the city of houston elections. The data has a range from 2007 to present.
The candidate profile dashboard lets the public explore the campaign contributions and expenses of each political candidate in Houston. The information can be viewed in the aggregate or broken down by individual campaign year to allow for historical comparisons. We want to ensure that the public can view inflow and outflow of money by individual candidate. Mayor Parker in 2013 received and spent a large amount of money. We can see her top 20 donors in the first window, and see that she spent 2.1m on advertising buys and 1.6m on salaries. If you scroll down, you can then get a look as to where she raised her money, as well as where she spent her money.
Next, we decided to focus on the top 20 givers and receivers of money. For example in 2013 locke lorde bissell and liddel, a law firm, gave to competitors andrew burks and david robinson. most likely trying to hedge their bets. Going down to the recipients of money, you can see that Elite Change, a consulting firm, received money from multiple candidates.
The financing by race dashboard lets the public explore the campaign contributions and expenses of each political candidate, broken down by race. The viz shows how much money was received and how much was spent by race in total, as well as a look at the candidates. This micro and macro view of the data, allows people to understand whether or not out of state interests take a part in campaigns. This also allows us to view how the money was spent. For example, the red light camera initiative in 2011 spent a significant amount of money on legal services as well as salaries.
Finally, the proof of concept idea that we wanted to show is a dollars per vote calculation for each candidate in the 2013 General Election. Looks can be deceiving though; spending the most per voter doesn't guarantee victory - for instance, Bill Frazier spend the most per vote in the Controller’s race, but was unable to win.
Take time to explore the dashboards yourself by visiting http://houstoncampaignfinance.com and you too can bring transparency to campaign finance in City of Houston elections.
Thank you for your time and please come up to us to ask any questions.