Following the 2022 midterm elections, Philadelphia’s Board of Ethics (BoE) and the Office of Innovation and Technology’s (OIT) CityGeo team have launched an interactive dashboard for the city’s campaign finance data.
In a press release, the city explained that the new tool will make it possible for the public to explore the open data during elections. Philadelphia also created an in-depth video tutorial on how to use the dashboard, along with metadata and technical documentation. The data and dashboard include filings from 2019 to the present.
“The data dashboard is the result of our long-term collaboration with OIT to make our filing system and data easier to use and understand. We will continue to work together to help the public better access and understand campaign finance disclosures,” said J. Shane Creamer, Jr, executive director of the BoE.
The BoE and OIT teams said the dashboard can be used in a number of different ways to explore several data points. Specifically, media can use the resource to quickly access and report on the approximate contributions or expenditures of a particular candidate or other filer; voters can explore donations candidates received; political scientists and researchers can analyze trends over time; and candidates may use it to review their own activity or compare with others.
“Creating this tool was a challenge, but the city has prioritized making campaign finance data more user-friendly,” shared the city’s Chief Information Officer Mark Wheeler. “The Campaign Finance Dashboard further reinforces our commitment to transparency and equipping residents with as much information available when they’re making important voting decisions.”
The city said the dashboard is in beta form, and that the city is “committed to improving and adjusting this tool based on the public’s interests and needs.”
Since the dashboard is in beta, the city said that when using the dashboard or open datasets for official purposes, the numbers should be cited as “approximate.” In a press release, the city said this should be done for a handful of reasons:
- “Data may change daily as filers submit new information or amend previous reports.
- Transactions may not appear in the data if they have not been reported yet.
- Filers are allowed to group small donations (less than $50) as a lump sum, called unitemized contributions. This means the exact contribution amounts, number, identity, or locations of those donors is not disclosed, and therefore any metrics based on those parameters will exclude such contributions.
- Data may include some errors due to inevitable inconsistencies in reporting.
- Some state-level candidates file paper reports that do not currently enter OIT’s database. The datasets include a field that flags filers who have submitted paper filings and how many they have submitted.”