The purpose of this post is simply to present my data summaries of the 2014 Gainesville City Commission campaign and elections. (All downloads are in PDF format.)
This isn’t the raw data – you can get that at the Supervisor of Elections website. And that was where I started.
As for the election results, I grouped the precincts by the four city commission districts. That wasn’t hard and it makes the voting patterns much clearer.
On the other hand, I put in a lot of work on the contributor reports, as I hope you’ll see. Contributors are grouped by family and/or business interests, and ranked by their total amount contributed. The reports also show a cumulative total of the amount of money contributed, so that you can see, for example, how much was the total contribution from the top 20 donor groups.
To my knowledge this has never been done before locally, or at least not made publicly available.
These first two reports highlight the stark differences between the backers of the two sets of candidates.
Consolidated report of Carter, Chase & Orlando contributors
Consolidated report of Bottcher, Eddie & Warren contributors
Contributor reports for individual candidates:
Here’s what I did to produce the contributor reports:
- Downloaded the reports from the SoE website in CSV format and got them into an Excel spreadsheet
- Performed initial cleanup on the data: corrected obvious typos, spelling errors and inconsistencies in data entry; combined the two address fields into a single field; shortened the candidate’s name field to just the last name; deleted the expenditure data.
- Moved the spreadsheet into a database system for more advanced work. I created a field called “Group” so I could group the contributions from particular families and business interests. To assign contributions to groups I relied on much more than just the contributors’ names. I sorted the data by address to see which contributions came from identical addresses but under different names. Then I looked up the principals of all the business contributors, using a number of different sources. Then I looked up the business interests of all but the smallest individual contributors, again using a number of different sources.
- At this point I deleted candidates’ contributions to their own campaigns, as my goal is to document the contributions that came “from the outside.” Also, a few individuals contributed over the $250 limit (under their own names) and therefore had money returned to them; I showed those as negative contributions so that their total contributions add up correctly.
- Finally, I generated the reports that appear above.
I checked and re-checked the data many times, but I don’t presume that every single item is perfect. If you find listings you know to be in error, I’d be grateful to hear about it and will make any necessary corrections. On the other hand, I’m not inclined to deal with comments such as “I don’t see why you included so-and-so in such-and-such group.” Jus’ sayin’.
Here are some links you may find useful.
Florida Division of Corporations search page
First, search for your target in the corporate names or officers. If that doesn’t turn up anything, try the fictitious names searches.
If the Divison of Corporations links don’t help, search for the address and then switch to street view. Sometimes, that’ll give a helpful clue, like a business sign.
If you’re still coming up empty-handed, try a plain vanilla Google search and see if turns up a business’s website or a LinkedIn page or a Facebook page. As a last resort, search for mentions on The Gainesville Sun‘s website.