It’s a DATA BUFFET! Sunlight Labs announced last week the launch of TransparencyData.com, a site that is designed to let you query and download bulk data about government transparency. The big data set available at launch is campaign contributions at the state and federal level. TransparencyData.com is available at — ta-dah! — http://transparencydata.com/.
The front page has a 4-minute video that shows how TransparencyData.com works — below that is a search form that lets you specify what time cycle you want to find donations in and whether you’re looking for donations for or against a candidate. The top field lets you choose one of many other variables to search, including the amount, the contributor, the contributor’s state, the recipient’s name, the recipient’s state, etc. What’s not immediately obvious is that you can “stack” variables by using the pulldown menu over and over again. For example, I can find contributions of less than $10,000 to candidates in Florida.
Once you’ve specified your contributions and selected “Preview Data,” TransparencyData will think about it for a few minutes and then present you with a preview of what your data looks like. You’ll get a table of results that shows several things including contribution amount, date, organization, and recipient.
Now, why is this data “previewed”? Because you’re not supposed to browse it on the site; instead, you’re supposed to check out this data and make sure it’s what you want to find, and then you download it. In this case, clicking the download data got me a CSV (Comma Separated Values) text file, suitable for opening in the spreadsheet program of your choice. The CSV file has literally dozens of fields, far more than you’ll see on the data preview page.
There are so many fields available, in fact, you might appreciate spending a few minutes with the documenation page, which does a good job of explaining the schema. If you find you want access to large lumps of raw data, visit the bulk download page, but I hope you have a high-speed download. Finally, if you’re a programmer, check out the REST API. I am loving that CSV response format.