Post: Politics and Blogs

The Politics team has kept me busy the last two weeks at the Post, so I’ve got plenty to mention here. The 2008 Campaign Tracker has gotten some big new features. Pull up Barack Obama (my former-hometown’s hero) and look at the column on the right side.

Derek scraped all the candidates’ FEC filings into a database and I put a search engine on the front of it. The candidate pages all have little targeted search engine forms -- so on the Obama page (you did open it, right?) there’s a form to search all the contributions to him. More-focused pages like the Q3 filings and Obama’s Q3 filings pages do the more-focused searched you’d expect. (By the way: if you see some contribute $4,600, it’s because they gave the max to the candidate’s Primary Election PAC and General Election PAC; negative contributions are the PAC returning over-donations.)

The full search engine has every last field you can search by, just in case you’re curious about every self-employed therapist in the Chicago area who gave the legal max to Romney in August.

We have slightly more data than we’re sharing (like street address) and considered where we’d draw that line -- it’s not interesting in and of itself that J. Random Citizen (in this case, Janet Duchossois) gave money to Romney, but wider views like how many max contributions he got in August are interesting. Part of what makes it worth including names, zips, and occupations is that we want to prompt searchers to think about contributions in all these different ways. Another of it is that sometimes you can find oddities that turn out to be newsworthy. The data is all public record, but making it easily searched, mined, and totaled challenges people’s unconscious expectation of anonymity in public crowds.

To catch the eye of folks who, shall we say, would not otherwise find it very interesting to poke through quarterly filings to the Federal Elections Commissions, the Politics team is going through the donations and flagging the donations of celebrities and other public figures. The Noteworthy Donors box under the search form picks three few people to highlight. It’s still incomplete, but it’s a fun feature and I’ve already seen donations I wouldn’t have thought to search on. (Eagle-eyed readers will note they can append &noteworthy=1 onto search URLs to filter, but we didn’t add UI for it.)

The Politics team has also been busy contacting state legislators and asking them who they Endorse for President. Right now they’re just tracking the ~950 legislators of the five battleground states, but there are plans to expand it that I’ll call out when we do so. This just went public a few hours ago and it wasn’t live for 30 minutes -- we hadn’t even sent around an internal memo, let alone made a public announcement -- before a campaign contacted us with a new endorsement for their candidate.

In non-political news, I helped launch the Local Blog Directory.

::: blockquote

This directory is for blogs produced in the greater Washington metropolitan area that are in some fashion about life in our region. We ask that you not sign up if you happen to live here but blog primarily about non-local topics. :::

I wrote more about living in DC I’d look to get Push cx listed. (Note: Dan Berko did almost all of the dev work for this, I just made some tweaks before pushing it live.)