The Federal Election Commission has opened its array of campaign finance data through its first application programming interface, allowing developers, academics, journalists and other data wonks to easily search through 40 years of data.
Created with the help of the General Services Administration’s 18F, the API gives the public the ability to search through political candidate records, find out information related to fundraising groups, and look up total spending and fundraising through a number of election cycles.
While the FEC has always released a wealth of information through its Campaign Finance Disclosure Portal, the majority of that data is released in bulk. With an API, users can customize their searches to better find the relevant data they are looking for.
“With that API, searching for candidates and committees will be easier and more interactive,” wrote Lindsay Young, an innovation specialist at 18F, in a blog post. “Information is organized around concepts like candidates, which are more welcoming than navigating buckets of information based on forms.”
The API is part of a move by the FEC to modernize its digital presence. Along with the API, Young wrote the commission will also be redesigning its website and launching an app.
Young said improvements will be coming to the API, including ways to search for individual contributions and more granular spending data.
Those interested in using the API can do so after signing up for a data.gov API key. Additionally, the watchdog group Sunlight Foundation published a guide for using the API on its website.