All data used by Transparency Texas has been downloaded directly from the Texas Ethics Commission’s (TEC) website. The TEC is the state agency responsible for overseeing reporting on campaign donations and expenditures in Texas.
While analyzing the data received from the TEC, we encountered two major issues: data-duplication and double counting. With transparency as our bedrock, we’d like you to know how we worked through each:
The State of Texas has several “reporting periods” each year, and candidates, PACs, and state parties must report their incoming donations and outgoing expenditures for those periods. Often times, those reporting make mistakes and must submit “corrected” reports. Unfortunately, this occasionally leads to single donations or expenditures being listed twice on the TEC website.
An example: Marcus Miller, a candidate for State Senate District 31, is supposed to submit a report for all donations and expenditures from July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015. After sending in his report, he realizes he made a mistake. In order to fix this error, Marcus must submit a “corrected” report to the TEC. Now, the TEC has two reports on file for Marcus for the July 1, 2015 – December 31, 2015 reporting period. Since there are two unique reports, sometimes the TEC’s system counts the donations or expenditures in these reports twice.
Our solution to this issue was to scrub the data received from the TEC for duplicate donations and expenditures. By de-duplicating the data we are able to provide Texans with a clearer picture of the money involved in state races.
Candidates and elected officials can receive money from a variety of sources. The easiest way to understand this incoming money is to categorize dollars as having come from either individuals (private citizens) or entities (all groups giving money to influence elections or policies).
Based on how political giving occurs, and how the TEC currently reports information, gifts to most political entities are often counted twice.
An example: If an individual from Dallas, TX named Kevin Kennedy decides he wants to give $5 to an entity called the Justice Reform for Texas PAC, that $5 is reported to the TEC as a donation to that particular entity. Then, if Justice Reform for Texas PAC gives $5 to Teresa Thompson, a candidate for State House District 114, that $5 is reported to the TEC as a donation to that particular candidate. Only $5 of real money was given, but two separate $5 donations were reported.
While there is nothing sinister in this reporting methodology, it does make analyzing the money rather difficult. Our solution: in some instances, when necessary, we will count only donations made to candidates and elected officials by individuals, as well as donations to entities from individuals and other entities. By removing most entity donations to candidates and elected officials, we have effectively prevented double counting of dollars and donations and provided a more accurate view of the actual numbers.
Articles or commentary in which this methodology has been used will be noted as such.
We’ve taken great care to bring you the most accurate information about the money in Texas politics, but if you find an error, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be happy to correct it!