Data Explanation for Wisconsin

Data Acquisition

The Wisconsin Ethics Commission (WEC) provides access to campaign finance reports through their website. There are four search interfaces:

  • Filed Reports – Search for reports and view them in PDF format here.
  • Receipts – Search for transactions where money was received by a filer.
  • Expenses – Search for transactions where money was spent by a filer.
  • Registrants – Search for registered filing committees.

All of these interfaces allow users to either page through the search results 25 records at a time, or export the results to files with 65,000 records at a time.

Transparency USA uses all four of these interfaces to export all available WEC data. The search interfaces do not show when a complete new data set is available, so Transparency USA regularly searches and scrapes the available reports after each reporting deadline.

Reported Data

Schedules 1A, 1B, and 1C – Contributions

Contributions are reported to the WEC in three distinct schedules:

  1. Contributions (Including Loans) from Individuals
  2. Contributions from Committees (Transfers-In)
  3. Other Income and Commercial Loans

Even though organizations report these three categories of income separately, Wisconsin’s transaction search does not distinguish among them.

When possible, Transparency USA prefers to display the kind of data reported in Schedules 1A and 1B as contributions, and to categorize loan reports and non-contribution income separately. Because the WEC receipt search shows no distinction for Schedule 1C data, Transparency USA displays all three categories as contributions for Wisconsin.

Schedule 2A and 2B – Disbursements

Disbursements are reported in two distinct schedules:

  1. Gross Expenditures
  2. Contributions to Committees

Similar to schedules 1A and 1B, Transparency USA does not distinguish between these two categories, and reports them all as expenditures.

Schedule 3A and 3B – Additional Disclosures

Additional disclosures are reported in two distinct schedules:

  1. Incurred Obligations Excluding Loans
  2. Loans – Individual, Committee, or Commercial

Wisconsin doesn’t appear to make transactions included  on Schedules 3A and 3B  available for download, so Transparency USA does not import or display this data.

Even if we could acquire and import this loan data, doing so could result in double-counting dollars from loans since loans are also reported as income on schedule 1A. The consequence is that Transparency USA must report loans as contributions with no way to identify them as loans.