Questions and Answers about MAPLight.org Los Angeles

What is MAPLight.org Los Angeles? 

MAPLight.org Los Angeles is a groundbreaking public website that reveals campaign contributions to Los Angeles City politicians. We show how much interest groups like real estate developers, teachers unions and others contribute to your representatives and to candidates running for city office. The site is the first of its kind for any U.S. city.  

Who is behind MAPLight.org Los Angeles? 

MAPLight.org Los Angeles is created and updated by MAPLight.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization illuminating the connection between money and politics. Our Los Angeles website is funded by the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation. The Center for Governmental Studies is MAPLight.org’s partner in this project.

Where does your data come from?

Los Angeles politicians, and independent groups spending money to influence elections, are required by law to file reports of campaign contributions and expenditures. MAPLight.org collects these public reports from the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission (LACEC), and MAPLight.org's research team categorized each contributor according to what interest they best represent.

What election cycles/jurisdictions does the data cover?

As of June 2010, our site includes all contributions to campaign committees (CA Form 460 Schedules A and C) and independent expenditures in support of candidates for city council, Mayor, City Attorney and City Controller in for all candidates in the 2005, 2007 and 2009 election cycles. The date range of transactions is from 2001 through the end of the 2009 election cycle for contributions and 2005-2009 for independent expenditures  Contributions to officeholder accounts are also available via the Contributions search interface but not included on other pages of the site. 

We do not include unitemized contributions, independent expenditures in opposition to candidates, matching funds or loans.

We are no longer updating the data on this website.

Does MAPLight.org include contributions from people who live outside of the city of Los Angeles?

Yes. We include all campaign and officeholder funds and independent expenditures reported to the LACEC.

Does MAPLight.org include contributions from companies and individuals?

Yes, we include contributions from both companies and individuals--any person or organization that has reported a contribution or independent expenditure.

Is this legal? Are you breaking any privacy laws?

Publishing this public information is indeed legal. All contributor data published here is also available via the LACEC public website. To protect privacy, we do not publish street addresses of contributors.

How does MAPLight.org Los Angeles differ from the LA City Ethics Commission website?

MAPLight.org Los Angeles uses contribution information available from the LACEC. MAPLight.org's researchers then categorize each contribution according to the interest group of the contributor (such as real estate developer, teachers union, etc.). This categorization provides improved transparency and allows analysis of Los Angeles campaign contributions in ways never before possible. In addition, MAPLight.org allows searching, sorting and downloading of contribution data in different ways than are available on the LACEC website.

How accurate is your data?

MAPLight.org Los Angeles is based on the campaign contribution disclosure filings that candidates and independent expenditure committees are required to file by law. These filings are provided to MAPLight.org and the public by the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. Errors might exist in these data filings due to, for example, inaccurate information provided by candidates or committees. However, this data is the most accurate available about Los Angeles political contributions. The LACEC posts the following disclaimer on their website: "EFS data is input by candidate committees. The Commission does not amend information to edit variations in spelling, punctuation, use of abbreviations or inaccuracies. Therefore, search results may not be 100% accurate or inclusive."

Can I remove my contribution from this database?

If you see incorrect data on our website, please report it here.

Can I download your data?

Yes. Search for contributions, then click the "Download" link at the top right of the table of search results.

Can I use, copy or republish your data?

Yes, for noncommercial and news media use, as long as you credit "MAPLight.org." For details, see the Creative Commons license found at the bottom of each web page. For commercial use, please contact us to arrange permission.

How can I support your work?

Our work depends on people like you who value transparency and holding politicians accountable. To support our work, please make a donation or contact us.

What are your future plans for MAPLight.org Los Angeles?

We have no current plans to update the data on this site.

How did you come up with the interest group categories?

The interest group categories used on MAPLight.org Los Angeles were adapted from interest group categories used by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) and the National Institute for Money in State Politics (NIMSP). We adapted these categories to reflect Los Angeles city-level interests. See details in our interest group coding methodology.

How does MAPLight.org assign an interest group to an individual?

See details in the description of our interest group coding methodology.

The monetary amounts found on "Search Contributions" don’t always match those displayed on the front page/politicians' pages. Why is that?

The homepage currently displays total amounts for the 2009 campaign cycle. The database available via the Search Contributions page allows users to analyze all contributions since the 2001 campaign cycle.

Some records from the "Search Contributions" page do not have an "interest group". Why?

The effort to research and code every single contribution in the database is ongoing and in progress.

The individual politician pages say "Matching funds rejected" or "Matching funds accepted." What does this mean?

A Center for Governmental Studies report explains the concept of matching funds in the following way:

"The heart of Proposition H’s campaign finance provisions was its creation of a public matching funds program. In order to qualify for the matching funds, candidates must first agree to abide by spending limits, must meet a fundraising threshold, must agree not to contribute a large amount of their own money to the campaign, and must abide by various other campaign finance regulations. Small contributions from individuals (not corporations or PACs) to candidates are then matched $1 in public funds for every $1 in private contributions, up to a maximum amount of public funds as defined by law."     —Eleven Years of Reform: Many Successes, More to be Done, October 2001

Candidates who qualify for matching funds have the option to reject them.

Interest Group Coding Methodology

The taxonomy of Interest Group Sectors, Industries and Categories (viewable here) is adapted from a taxonomy developed by the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) for federal-level interest groups. We also draw from the adaptations of the National Institute on Money in Politics (NIMSP) for state-level interest groups. The interest group codes assigned to contribution records are determined by several factors:

  1. Past research by partner organizations. Research previously done on the individual or organization at the federal and state level helps us determine interest at the municipal level. For example, if John Smith gave money to his Congressional representative or his State Assemblyman, research has already been done by CRP and/or NIMSP on his interests. We reference this research when assigning the interest group code, but we do not necessarily use the same one. We recognize that people and companies may have multi-dimensional interests. If John Smith's interests at the federal level are categorized as "Pro-Israel," but in Los Angeles he is a major real estate developer, we will categorize him as "Real Estate Developer" because actions taken by local politicians are likely to be about land use, but not likely to be about foreign policy.
  2. Households are grouped together for analysis. For example, if the wife and son of a Lobbyist contribute to a campaign, and the wife enters her occupation as "homemaker" and the son enters his occupation as "student," they will all be coded as "Lobbyist." Where there are stakeholders from multiple industries in one household, however, different members of the household will be categorized differently.
  3. Industries, organizations and people are always changing. We do our best to analyze all the data we have about a contributor in order to accurately represent the contributor's primary interests. If you see something that does not look right, or if you have additional information that might help us categorize a contributor, please contact us.
  4. Not everyone has a distinguishable interest. For example, if Jane Smith contributes $100 to her local candidate and enters her occupation as "Receptionist" at Chevron Oil & Gas company, we will not assign her the interest code of "Major Oil & Gas Producers." We will, rather, assign her the interest group "Uncoded," which is the category for ordinary citizens with no distinguishable interest.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Albina Popov, Felicia Berryessa-Erich and Tom Hirth for their extensive research contributions to this site. We also offer thanks to our partner the Center for Governmental Studies, led by Robert Stern and Tracy Westen, and to LeeAnn Pelham and her team at the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. Thank you to Ed Bender and his team at the National Institute on Money in State Politics, for generously sharing their expertise, and to Sean Tanner and Andrew Page for their early contributions to this project. We are deeply appreciative of the financial support of the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation, which make this project possible. Emily Calhoun, MAPLight.org's research director, leads the MAPLight.org Los Angeles project, working with lead developer Neil Drumm and the rest of the MAPLight.org team.

The data provided on the MapLight Web site is accurate as best as can determined.