News Release

FEC Claims Missing Records on Key Funders a “Technical Problem”

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute, and contributing editor at AlterNet.

PAUL JORGENSEN, pjorgensen at ethics.harvard.edu
Jorgensen is a fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He, along with Ferguson, recently wrote the piece “Cover Ups Are Worse Than Vanishing Data: The Facts About the FEC’s Data Downloads” which states: “Yesterday, as an effort in the Senate to mandate disclosure of campaign contributions to non-profit groups fell a few votes short, we published our account of how FEC files relating to similar contributions made during the 2008 election had gone missing from the big data downloads that the FEC makes available to researchers. These are important, because private, for profit groups and public interest groups use as them as the basis for the data presentations that scholars, journalists, and the public usually rely on.

“We’re glad to see that the FEC is restoring its files, but our claims were exact and true. We think the agency should simply admit this; cover ups are always worse than the original foolishness. As our article describes, the FEC’s big data downloads define the history of contributions; they are what people rely on when they calculate totals and other numbers, as well sort through patterns for individuals, groups, and contributors.

“These downloads are public and dated, so anyone can verify what’s in them. The 2008 contribution by Harold Simmons that we mentioned is in the January download. It is not in the July 8 download. The same is true for other contributions we discussed to Let Freedom Ring by John Templesman, Jr., and Foster Friess. More broadly, the entire set of “C9” files covering 501(c)4 that we discussed is gone from the July download, with the trivial exception we mentioned. Needless to say, we checked the FEC’s database many times ourselves and we indicated that the original record of contributions by Simmons (and others) could still be found, if you knew exactly where to look.”