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Big money donations are as of 09/30/2015. Small money donations are as of 02/23/2016 .
When using or distributing information from this site, please credit Explore Campaign Finance and, if possible, provide a link to the page where you found the information.
Donors who give over $200 to a politician during an election cycle are disclosed to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) along with information such as their address and employer.
The FEC makes that data available publicly on their website.
Then, the Center for Responsive Politics, through OpenSecrets.org, takes that information and makes it a bit more user friendly. It deduplicates and standardizes some of the inputs, so that if on one donation form, someone listed "Solomon Kahn" as their employer, and on another they listed "Solomon Kahn Inc." those donations would look the same.
Additionally, where possible, they link together companies and industries. So Goldman Sachs would be categorized in the Financial Sector, and Monsanto in Agribusiness.
All the donations you see in the chart above are from these itemized, big money donations. All the small money donations candidates receive are lumped together in one big "Small Money Donors" line item, as explained to the right.
In cases where the total for a cycle is negative, this is a result of refunding money from previous election cycles.
Independent Expenditures by Super Pacs on behalf of a candidate are included in their fundraising totals. Independent expenditures against opponents are not included by default, but can be included in the advanced options.
Non-contributions (in particular 24T contributions) are earmarked contributions where the funds come from an organizations treasury as opposed to an individual's direct contribution.
The data powering this is exported from OpenSecrets raw files into a postgres database. That database is open source and can be found here.
People who donate less than $200 to candidates per election cycle are not disclosed individually to the FEC.
So, what candidates do is combine together all the small money donations into a single disclosure listed as "Unitemized Donations."
If over the course of the election cycle, 100 people each donate $100 to a politician, and all the other contributions were over $200, that candidate would have $10,000 in "Unitemized Contributions" for the election cycle.
In the above charts, these unitemized contributions are listed as "Small Money Donors." This is a combination of all the small money donations from the entire election cycle.
One of the things you might find as you go through politicians, is that the small money donations seem to be an extremely small percentage of their total contributions. This is not a typo or an error. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of politicial money is raised from big money donors, not small money donors. For my personal congressman, it was less than 1% in the previous election cycle. This is one of the things that campaign finance reformers are trying to change.
OpenSecrets does not include this data in their publicly available datasets, and getting it from the raw FEC files is also impossible. However, 18F, an amazing governmental organization working to help improve technology in government, has built an API to access various FEC data.
That API is used to populate the Small Money Donation amount for candidates. Unfortunately, that data is not available for election cycles from 2000 and earlier, so small money donors are not yet included for those election cycles. Whever that data becomes available, I will include it.
In addition, small money donors are not included in all the presidential data before 2008. Any small money donations a presidential candidate raises previous to 2008 is from their non-presidential committee, generally senate or house committees.