Alternet and the FEC

Yesterday Alternet posted an article, “Revealed: Key Files on Big-Ticket Political Donations Vanish at Federal Election Commission;Top money and politics researchers discover that the FEC is quietly deleting information on fat-cat funders.”  “We have discovered that sometime after January of this year, the FEC deleted a whole set of contributions totaling millions of dollars made during the 2007-2008 election cycle. The most important of these files concern what is now called “dark money” – funds donated to ostensible charities or public interest groups rather parties, candidates or conventional political action committees (PACs). These non-profit groups – which Washington insiders often refer to generically as 501(c)s, after the section of the federal tax code regulating them – use the money to pay for allegedly educational “independent” ads that run outside conventional campaign channels. Such funding has now developed into a gigantic channel for evading disclosure of the donors’ identities and is acutely controversial.”

The FEC press office sent along this response, which the FEC shared with the authors and editors of the article:

A recent blog raised concerns that the FEC may have deleted certain data with respect to large contributions during a certain timeframe in the recent past. (http:www.alternet.org/story/156329/revealed%3A_key_files_on_big_ticket_political_donations_vanish_at_federal_election_commission). The suggestion is incorrect.

The data have always been available to the public on the FEC website through the Report Image Search and also through our Public Disclosure Office. At no time was this or any other campaign finance information removed from the public record.

On April 15, 2012, the FEC transferred some files that are used to transmit large data sets to researchers from an older database to a more modern database. During this process, it appears that a transaction code from the data files was inadvertently overlooked. As a result, some data reported on the FEC Form 5, the Report of Independent Expenditures Made and Contributions Received, were not transmitted to the newer database. This technical problem will be corrected by tomorrow night.

As part of an ongoing effort to improve our systems, the FEC is currently in the process of implementing a new Data Warehouse.  This and other initiatives spurred by public input will assist the public, press, and researchers to access campaign finance data in a more efficient and user-friendly manner. The FEC encourages researchers and reporters to raise issues such as this with our press or public information officers in order to avoid inaccurate reporting and resolve technical issues as expeditiously as possible.

Judith Ingram
Press Officer
Federal Election Commission

UPDATE: Alternet responds.

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