Monday, May 26, 2008

Obama's Fundraising Overwhelms FEC Reporting

This is cool.

This morning, Politico reports FEC Computers Can't Handle Obama's Jackpot. The Politico story on the FEC also reveals other confusion as well, that resulting in false reporting on the extent of Hillary's debt.

This dilemma is the result of what Josh Green reported on in The Atlantic and which I summarized here. An New York Times Op-ed today by Roger Cohen called The Obama Connection, also notes Green's reporting and Obama's 21st century campaign and cites Green: Obama’s claim of 1,276,000 donors is so large that Clinton doesn’t bother to compete.

Data to support that Politico headline:
A milestone of sorts was reached earlier this year, when Obama, the Illinois senator whose revolutionary online fundraising has overwhelmed Clinton, filed an electronic fundraising report so large it could not be processed by popular basic spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel 2003 and Lotus 1-2-3.

Those programs can’t download data files with more than 65,536 rows or 256 columns.

Obama’s January fundraising report, detailing the $23 million he raised and $41 million he spent in the last three months of 2007, far exceeded 65,536 rows listing contributions, refunds, expenditures, debts, reimbursements and other details.
Regarding news reports errors on Clinton's debt:
The summaries, which mirror those eventually posted on the FEC’s website, contain only top-line numbers – how much the candidate raised, spent, borrowed and owed at the end of the month.

Many media outlets rely on such summaries and don’t download or delve deeply into the data upon which they are based. The result often is horse-race-style money coverage – who’s raised more, how unprecedented the levels of money are and what it means for the campaigns– which can sometimes create incomplete or inaccurate reporting or cause more important stories to be overlooked. For instance, multiple media outlets relied on the summary entry entitled “Debts and Obligations Owed by the Committee” in reporting that Clinton at the end of March owed $10 million, including $5 million she had loaned her own campaign.

A deeper look into the report would have revealed that she did not report her personal loan to the campaign as debt, meaning that her debt would have actually been $15 million including the loan.

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