Due to some behind the scenes technical difficulties, our series of posts on the campaign finance ecosystem of the 110th Congress have been unavailable. I am happy to report that we now have everything restored. We thought it would be nice to repost the visual above in light of recent decisions such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The Citizens United case has justifiably generated a significant amount of media / blogosphere coverage. For those not familiar with the Court’s decision, there is a full roundup of analysis available at SCOTUS Blog and Election Law Blog. For those interested, our original post is offered here and the documentation for the network creation and data collection is here. Also, there are variety of other related posts related to the 110th Congress available under this tag.
Today’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has justifiably generated a significant amount of media / blogosphere coverage. For those not familiar with the Court’s decision, there is a full roundup of analysis available at SCOTUS Blog and Election Law Blog. In light of today’s decision we decided to repost highlights of our visualization of the campaign contribution network for the Senators of the 110th Congress. For those interested, the original post is offered here and the documentation is here. Also, there are variety of other related posts related to the 110th Congress available under this tag. Suffice to say, in light of today’s decision, there is likely to be some significant changes to the contribution network of the 111th Congress (Second Session) ….
This is a repost our previous Senators of the 110th Congress Campaign Finance Visualization. Last week we highlighted one specific element of the graph (i.e. Senator Dodd and the TARP Banks). Now, we wanted to bring the full graph back to the front of the page for your consideration. Here is the content of the old post with a few small additions….
“As part of our commitment to provide original content, we offer a Computational Legal Studies approach to the study of the current campaign finance environment. If you click below you can zoom in and read the labels on the institutions and the senators. The visualization memorializes contributions to the members of the 110th Congress (2007 -2009). Highlighted in green are the primary recipients of the TARP.
In the post below, we offer detailed documentation of this visualization. One Important Point the Visualization Algorithm we use does force the red team, blue team separation. Rather, the behavior of firms and senators produces the separation.
Four Important Principles: (1) Squares (i.e. Institutions) introduce money into the system and Circles (i.e. Senators) receive money (2) Both Institutions and Senators are sized by dollars contributed or dollars received– Larger = More Money (3) Senators are colored by Party. (4) The TARP Banks are colored in Green. “
In our previous graph visualizations of contributions to members of the House and Senate, there have been two types of entities: Contributors and Congressmen. This division manifests itself in the dynamics of the graph as well – Contributors give only to Congressmen, and Congressmen receive only from Contributors. A network with this property is bipartite, and there are a number of additional ways to represent the relations contained therein.
One such representation is called the single-mode projection. In this simplification, only elements from one of the two sets (e.g., Congressmen or Contributors) are displayed. A relationship exists between two elements in the visual if they share a relationship with at least one member of the other group. For instance, both Bernie Sanders and Sam Brownback received campaign contributions from the the National Association of Realtors. Thus, the Congressmen both have a relationship with the same Contributor, and the simplest single-mode projection would represent this as a shared relationship between the two Congressmen. For more on this projection or other representations, see Wasserman and Faust (1994) or M. E. J. Newman, S. H. Strogatz, and D. J. Watts, Phys. Rev. E 64, 026118 (2001).
As the Sanders-Brownback example above demonstrates, however, it is relatively easy to be connected in this representation. Thus, we enforce a threshold on the number of shared contributors for a relationship to exist – representatives must shared at least 10 contributors in order for a relationship to exist between them. It is important to note that different thresholds may produce different graphs. We have chosen this figure as it represents roughly half the number of major contributors to the typical representative. Obviously, alternative specifications are possible. In future posts, we may present different thresholds or normalizations. However, for now, we believe this is a simple but appropriate representation for the underlying data.
Given the requirement of sharing at least 10 contributors with another member, the above visualization no longer contains every member of the House of Representatives. To observe the full graph, please see our first post on the contributions to the House.
Interpreting this visual is very similar to previous visuals, and in many ways simpler. Other than points (1) and (2) below, again refer to our first post on the contributions to the House.
(1) SIZING of the CONNECTIONS — Each Connection (Arc) between an Institution and a Member of the House is sized according to the amount of money flowing through a connection. Darker connections represent larger flows of money while lighter connections represent smaller amounts of money.
(2) COLORING of the CONNECTIONS — Each connection representing a shared campaign contributor from between members of Congress is colored according to partisan affiliation. Using popular convention, we color shared relationships between Republican Party members as Red, and blue for shared relationships between Democratic Party members. For relationships that span across the party lines, the color green is used.
DOCUMENTATION FOR THE VISUALIZATION
110th Congress = January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2009
435 Voting Members of the United States House of Representatives + District of Columbia (Eleanor Holmes Norton) + Puerto Rico (Luis Fortuno) + Virgin Islands (Donna Christian-Green) + American Samoa (Eni F H Faleomavega) + Guam (Madeleine Z Bordallo)
Squares (Institutions) Introduce Money into the System and Circles (Congressmen) Receive Money.
Using recently published data on campaign contributions collected by the Federal Election Commission and aggregated by the Center for Responsive Politics our visualizations track large money donations to members of the 110th Congress over the 2007 – 2008 window.
It is important to note that most of these organizations did not directly donate. Rather, as noted by the Center for Responsive Politics “the money came from the organization’s PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates. Of course, it is impossible to know either the economic interest that made each individual contribution possible or the motivation for each individual giver. However, the patterns of contributions provide critical information for voters, researchers and others.”
The Center describes its methodology here http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/method_pop.php.
To provide for an optically tractable view of the top contributions, we follow the CRP and impose the limiting requirement that to be included in our tally a given group’s contribution must fall within a given house members top contributor list.
We try to strike a tradeoff between information overload and incomplete disclosure.
In coming days, we will provide an additional visualization of the underlying data. Check back soon!
CONTRIBUTORS & CONTRIBUTIONS:
2,508 of the Donors are captured in the Graph.
Total Recorded Donations Introduced into our Visualization by these Entities Total to $113,134,698
(1) SIZING of the REPRESENTATIVE NODES — Each Circular node representing a Member of the House is sized according the amount of incoming donations. Thus, larger nodes are the recipients of larger sums of money while the smaller nodes received smaller amounts of money.
(2) COLORING and SHAPES of the REPRESENTATIVE NODES — Each node representing a Member of the United States House of Representatives is colored according their Political Party. Using popular convention, we color members of the Republican Party as Red and members of the Democratic Party as Blue.
(3) SIZING of the CONNECTIONS — Each Connection (Arc) between an Institution and a Member of the House is sized according to the amount of money flowing through a connection. Darker connections represent larger flows of money while lighter connections represent smaller amounts of money.
(4) COLORING of the CONNECTIONS — Each connection representing a campaign contribution from an entity to a member of Congress is colored according to partisan affiliation of the receiving representatives. Using popular convention, we color members of the Republican Party as Red and members of the Democratic Party as Blue.
(5) STRUCTURE OF THE GRAPH — The Graph is Visualized Using Fruchterman-Reingold. This is an automated spring embedded, force directed placement algorithm often used in the network science literature to visualize graphs of this size.
In our previous post, a post which has generated tremendous interest from a variety of sources, we demonstrated how applying the tools of network science can provide a broad representation for thousands of lines of information. Throughout the 2008 Presidential Campaign then Senator Obama consistently discussed his Google for Government initiative.
From the Obama for America Website:
Google for Government: Americans have the right to know how their tax dollars are spent, but that information has been hidden from public view for too long. That’s why Barack Obama and Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) passed a law to create a Google-like search engine to allow regular people to approximately track federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and loans online.
We agree with both President Obama and Senator Coburn that universal accessibility of such information is worthwhile goal. However, we believe this is only a first step.
In a deep sense, our prior post is designed to serve as a demonstration project. We are just two graduate students working on a shoestring budget. With the resources of the federal government, however, it would certainly be possible to create a series of simple interfaces designed to broadly represent of large amounts of information. While these interfaces should rely upon the best available analytical methods, such methods could probably be built-in behind the scenes. At a minimum, government agencies should follow the suggestion of David G. Robinson and his co-authors who argue the federal government “should require that federal websites themselves use the same open systems for accessing the underlying data as they make available to the public at large.”
Anyway, will be back on Monday providing more thoughts on our initial representation of the 110th Congress. In addition, we hope to highlight other work in the growing field of Computational Legal Studies. Have a good rest of the weekend!
As part of our commitment to provide original content, we offer a Computational Legal Studies approach to the study of the current campaign finance environment. If you click below you can zoom in and read the labels on the institutions and the senators. The visualization memorializes contributions to the members of the 110th Congress (2007 -2009). Highlighted in green are the primary recipients of the TARP.
In the post below, we offer detailed documentation of this visualization.
Three Important Principles: (1) Squares (i.e. Institutions) introduce money into the system and Circles (i.e. Senators) receive money (2) Both Institutions and Senators are sized by dollars contributed or dollars received (3) Senators are colored by Party.