US Senators & Wall Street Cash (an OpenSecrets analysis)

I decided to look into the campaign attacks/claims made regarding Wall Street and its financial relationship to politics.  With so many (current and former) US Senators in contention, most notably Hillary Clinton, this exploration seemed worthwhile.  Essentially, I wanted to find out which candidates for US Senate were the most financially responsive to donations linked to Wall Street.  

Bar Charts: Bill de Blasio (NYC, Mayor, 2013)

So I identified slightly over 400 expenditures (Schedule F) from Bill de Blasio's 2013 mayoral campaign (2010 January Filing, through 2014 January Filing) which qualify as food and/or alcohol.  I identified every time the mayor-to-be held a meeting or an event where his campaign either booked catering space or provided calories for human consumption.  I did this using filer-supplied expenditure codes, filer-supplied text descriptions, and vendor names.  For instance, consider Bar Toto.  It is BDB's most favorite campaign hangout spot by number of visits (it is around the corner from his Park Slope home.)  His filings describe his visits there five different ways...

The Monopsony of John Boehner, Part 1

Let's take a look at the political finance network of John Boehner, the 61st and current Speaker of the House.  He assumed the gavel on January 5, 2011, but served as House Minority and House Majority leader, respectively, prior to his Speakership, on a continuous basis since February 2, 2006.  The day he first became Leader Boehner, the hit single was "Grillz" by Nelly (feat. Paul Wall and Ali & Gipp).  Boehner has represented his slice of the Buckeye state since "Because I Love You (The Postman Song)" by Stevie B ruled the billboard, and he did a stint at conference leadership in the 90s, but he has been at the pinnacle of Congressional power for just shy of a decade.  Now he makes for an excellent case study of what can go right and wrong as an American politician scales the most rarefied heights.  

Special Interest Cook-Out Part III: Dinner is served!

Part I and Part II of this story collectively lay out how we get to the point that we are handling all the records of 4,204 special interests, where they intersect with 4,625 Principal Campaign Committees of officials and would-be officials, transmitting $2,002,594,600 over 312,394 different relationships.  We've also whet our appetite on curiosity about activity in this space.

We know where these special interests are located, where the politicians are located, as well as when these transactions occur.  This is, in other words, excellent prep for our dish of special interest political finance.  Flame on.

Special Interest Cook-Out Part II

3.7 million transactions intra special interests can be pretty difficult to interpret.  Just like this blog post, it's a lot to scroll through!  In here, you've got employees making payroll withholdings out to employer and union and membership PACs (often on every paycheck for entire careers), and you've got institutions participating in regional/trade organizations, and specialized contributions and donor-ship of all kinds, including literally every way these PACs record their finance.  You've also got Transfers, a type of transaction that is recorded when directly affiliated PACs move money around intramural-like.  

RFP - Technical Audit/Documentation Project


Competitive Advantage Research is a political consulting firm created by Jon Reznick,  built around a piece of technology we boot-strapped: an ETL to public campaign finance records in New York (NYSBOE) and Federal (FEC) campaigns.  We have employed a dimensional data model and various data warehousing techniques in pursuit of political insights that are locked in this data.  Our core technology was built out in an incubation relationship and with the change of seasons, we are leaving the nest.  That's where you come in.

Project Details and Scope of Service

We are recruiting a developer with some level of specialty in data warehousing and dimensional data modeling to examine our code-base on GitHub with three goals:

  1. Knowledge Capture: Reviewing and standardizing commenting on every page of code at the function level
  2. Knowledge Transfer: Improving related documentation of every page of code in the repo on GitHub
  3. Audit: Compiling a list of suggested bug-fixes and other development matters

Please note, this is not a programming job, or even triage.  This is a paid audit of a functional product, and this contract has knowledge capture and knowledge transfer features so as to enable future strategic development.  This contract gives the holder an opportunity to demonstrate suitable proficiency as a technical partner if and when such offerings materialize; we are stepping gingerly into this.  This foundational work enables us to get thoughtful as we plan out the next steps.

Future contracts notwithstanding, any and all commits to code will be to edit and amend comment lines only.  The remainder of deliverables will be in the form of authored and edited content on a private GitHub repo and participation in a development queue dialog presenting your audit.  

This work will be scheduled and conducted during 3 consecutive days (10am-6pm) on-site in Austin, Texas, so as to ensure the primary goal of knowledge capture by the Competitive Advantage Research founder.  Outside of scheduling, the entirety of the work will be conducted during this three day period, on-site, using Competitive Advantage Research equipment.  This work will be conducted during the latter half of the month of June, pending scheduling considerations.


The offer is $3,000.00 for anyone who can schedule 3 days in Austin, TX without incurring special cost.  We are interested in excellent bids from all over the country, however.  A winning bid lodged from outside the central Texas region would qualify for an offer of $2,600.00 plus a travel stipend of $650 to help cover a flight and 3 nights of lodging.  

The travel stipend would be provided 30 days in advance, on collection of an executed contract and confirmation of your basic travel arrangements.  If you are from out of town, the company will conduct you to and from the airport and between the work-site and your lodgings, while you are in Austin.

The entire contract balance will be paid in full to the contract holder before leaving the work-site on day 3.  


You are an individual practitioner (and not a firm, broker, or intermediary of any kind) of your craft, and you can readily "sight-read" code on a fully functioning data-modeling application while working alongside its sole user to document it exhaustively, that's a start.  Intellectual curiosity, discretion, and attention to detail are how you seal the deal. You are serious, but you don't demand to be taken seriously.

You know regular expressions

We use the following technologies and maybe you do too:


(Note: We care more about the information architecture piece than we do about the front-end piece)

Evaluation and Submissions

Please submit your bid for consideration by May 15, 2015 to  I will reach out to schedule a meeting, in person or on Skype; meetings will be held from May 20 to May 26 (5 weekdays).  A decision regarding your bid will be communicated on or by June 1, 2015.

Make sure your bid includes:

  1. Contact info, including Skype
  2. A standard resume or CV
  3. A cover-letter indicating in under 300 words what I should focus on with your bid in particular
  4. Up to 3 work demonstrations.  This should ideally be URLs to products/demonstrations you worked on and brief summaries (200 words, each) of your specific technical role on each demonstrated work.
  5. Exactly 2 professional references, including their preferred mode of contact (email or phone) for expected use between May 27 and May 29, 2015.

Golf Ball Donations

In honor of the beginning of Spring and Q22015, I took a look at in-kind donations of Golf Balls today.

On July 8, 2007, TRIUS, INC. of Bohemia, NY gave FRIENDS OF STEVE LEVY $2,228.75 worth of "GOLF BALLS" as a Schedule D "donation in-kind."  

On July 28, 2011, NYS NURSES ASSN. PAC gave NYS DEMOCRATIC ASSEMBLY CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE HOUSEKEEPING ACCOUNT (DACC)  over two thousand dollars of "GOLF BALLS" as they had done in 2010 and 2009 previously.

On the flip-side, ALTRIA CORPORATE SERVICES, INC gave NYS SENATE REPUBLICAN CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE - HOUSEKEEPING almost a thousand dollars of balls in '05.

Here are the largest recipients of Golf Ball Largesse in NY politics.  You will note that the three filers highlighted above comprise our top 3.

Now I can assure you that this is the data that turns up if you search for donations in-kind of "Golf Balls".  A broader search merely for "Golf" turns up heaps more records!  But today, I wanted to give you just golf balls.  There is a lot of golf going on in New York politics.

Companies giving out golf balls to politicians range from those mentioned above to include rail manufacturer Bombardier, Philip Morris, Prudential NY, Equifax, Honda North America, FedEx, Pfizer, and the Mortgage Bankers' Association.

If you are tempted to think this might be an April Fools Day prank, perish the thought.  I am simply inserting this into the April Fools Day ambiguity of the internet to play up the humor that this is, in fact, hilariously real.  You can verify any of the records in this raw output at NYSBOE.  

What other funny items do you think are being purchased for politicians?