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FEC data + NU employees = story

by Andy Boyle.

Last April, as part of the Daily Nebraskan’s week long series on this year’s presidential elections, I did a story on the donations from University of Nebraska employees: Click here

I found that:

“University of Nebraska employees donated $68,411 to various presidential candidates, which amounts to almost 8 percent of Nebraska’s donations…

Former Democratic candidate John Edwards received the most money – $23,923 – from NU employees. Obama received $22,206, and Sen. Hillary Clinton got $5,945.

On the Republican side, former contender Mike Huckabee raised $5,400, Ron Paul $2,901 and Mitt Romney $475. Current Republican frontrunner John McCain managed only $451. Rudolph Giuliani and Duncan Hunter followed him.

I used a listing I obtained from the University of Nebraska central administration of total compensation received by employees of the four universities in the system, and then I downloaded a listing of FEC donations.

I put both lists in two separate Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and then used the text-to-columns function to move first names, last names and middle initials to separate fields Then I put both spreadsheets into Microsoft Access and joined the first names and last names.

Not every name in either FEC data or the listing of NU employees contained middle names/initials, so instead of joining first, last and middle, I just joined first and last names, and then listed the field for “middle” from both spreadsheets.

There weren’t thousands of matches, so I was able to go through it line by line and take out people. Sometimes it would be Johnny P. Somebody in both the FEC and employee data, but the person would say he was a “lawyer” on FEC data, meanwhile he was a “janitor” in the employee data.

When I came up with the final numbers, I then sorted them by candidate and came up with my figures. I was able to find some people to call and they were all quite happy to chat with me. What was quite interesting was the low amount McCain received compared to other candidates, and the same for Clinton.

Add in some footwork by discussing the numbers with political scientists and I felt I had a solid story using pretty simple computer analytical techniques.

What I might do in the near future is match state employee data with FEC data. It’d be interesting to see how state employees donate — and whether many donated on the same day, which might mean there’s bundling.