Campaign finance reporting on local races
A rare breed among American states, Missouri sets no limit to campaign finance contributions in political races. But all that money must be disclosed. So we tracked it.
In Fall 2012 elections, I led the Columbia Missourian’s government reporters in a coordinated effort to harvest and report the campaign finance earnings and expenditures reports of 33 candidates for 14 state and local races. I also helped coordinate efforts with other desks in the newsroom as we worked together to publish a complete set of graphics and a comprehensive online, searchable database of all contributions.
This was all set up for a night-turn project with well over 30 staffers on-deck. We produced and published all of the October quarterly reports the same night they were due to the Missouri Ethics Commission. Two weeks later, for the reports due eight days before the election, we prioritized the races and released the reports in batches.
While none of the reporting bears my name, this accomplishment is an important part of my portfolio because I took responsibility for developing its systems and execution. Leading up to production night, I prepared training resources for our team of Public Life reporters, coordinated work sessions with the information graphics editor and news applications developer, and assisted communications with the copy desk. On production night, I led the reporters through the process of downloading reports, entering data and proofing each other’s work. I also took responsibility for decision-making when we became aware of inconsistent reporting procedures among various candidates. I coordinated efforts with the other desks processing our work, and edited again after publication to ensure accuracy.
Following our first production night, I communicated with all parties to brainstorm and catalog any potential improvements to the process. I implemented all of those changes in time for the next campaign finance report night, two weeks later.
The following links bring you to the fruits of this labor, a project of which many people rightfully feel very proud: