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Fall 2002
Building your own database reveals the power behind the politics
By David Gulliver, The Virginian-Pilot

For years, the Pilot had been compiling a campaign contributions database for local candidates. The resulting stories were starting to look stale. They had done the “big donors” story as well as donations-by-zip-code. So, the paper decided to do something different. This time, they want to track not only who gave to whom, but what interest group they were affiliated with.... Read more ...

Campaign finance reform update: If you're confused, you're not alone
By Derek Willis,
Congressional Quarterly

If reporters are unsure about the effects of the new campaign finance law, they have good reason to be: almost everybody else is, too.
That's because, though President Bush signed the McCain-Feingold bill into law on March 27, the Federal Election Commission has the job of writing the regulations that actually will become the tenets of the law. And the going hasn't been easy, or even simple, to explain.

FEC's electronic filing site a boon for reporters
By Aron Pilhofer
Campaign Finance Information Center

The Federal Election Commission’s new electronic filing Web site makes viewing, importing and analyzing data fast enough for deadline reporting, and easy enough for anyone with basic CAR skills and a spreadsheet.
The agency has been experimenting with electronic filing for years. But the 2002 election cycle is the first in which it is mandatory for political parties, PACs as well as candidates for president and U.S. House. For journalists, this is a boon.
Political nonprofits flouting the law?
By Andrew Benore
Public Citizen

In the 2000 election, political nonprofits allowed interest groups to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections without any disclosre whatsoever. Congress passed a law two years ago designed to reign in these groups, but has it worked?

More states are moving to electronic data, but how good is it?
By MaryJo Sylwester
The Center for Public Integrity

The good news is that getting campaign finance data for state political party committees in an electronic format is becoming easier every year. The bad news is that the majority of states haven’t jumped on that bandwagon just yet.

Setting up an automated FTP to download FEC data
Griff Palmer
San Jose Mercury News

When looking for an FTP client, power users often cast aside the lowly command line client bundled with Microsoft’s Windows 32-bit operating systems in favor of jazzier GUI clients. Beneath the Win32 client’s drab exterior, though, is a program with scripting capabilities to rival programs from the Unix side of the tracks..
Tracker is published quarterly by the Campaign Finance Information Center,
Missouri School of Journalism, 138 Neff Annex, Columbia, MO 65211. 573-882-2042.