Branch Politics launches a new feature to show how Atlanta candidates’ campaigns are being financed for 2021 elections
The feature, which analyzes thousands of pages of campaign disclosure PDFs to summarize average donation amounts and top PAC and corporate donors for Atlanta candidates, is now available on the tech startup’s website, www.branch.vote.
ATLANTA, Georgia–Over the past 20 years, voters have lent increasing scrutiny to how candidates are funding their campaigns. Frustrated with politicians that are beholden to well-financed special interests, voters have begun looking at the financial ties of candidates before an election. Although these financial contributions are easy to explore for federal candidates, the picture is much different for state and local candidates in Georgia.
Campaign finance laws in Georgia require that candidates publicly disclose their contributions and expenditures throughout the election cycle. They do this by regularly submitting Campaign Contribution Disclosure Reports — PDF reports that can be anywhere from 10 to 300 pages long. Each county and city government typically has its own system for publicizing these reports. These factors make it extremely difficult for voters to even find these financial disclosures, and the format of the reports makes it nearly impossible to draw meaningful insights.
At the beginning of September, a local voting technology startup, Branch Politics, launched an ambitious initiative to solve this problem. Now, a day before the 2021 municipal elections, the startup has published the new campaign finance feature on their website, summarizing how over 80 Atlanta candidates’ campaigns are being financed. The new feature is available at www.branch.vote.
The new feature uses web scraping technology to collect and parse thousands of pages of PDF reports published by the City of Atlanta. It summarizes a few key points for each candidate, including how much the candidate has raised, what percentage of funding comes from small-dollar, large-dollar, or PAC/Corporate donors, and the top 10 PAC and Corporate contributors.
“What you get is a helpful, topline summary of how the candidate got their money,” explained Branch Politics founder, Walter Ley. “That’s really valuable because it can help you identify any conflicts of interest. It can also give you an idea of which candidates have a better shot of winning, if one candidate has raised a lot more than another.”
The new feature was built as an open-source project, meaning that source code is publicly available for the community to contribute to. This feature would not have been possible without contributions from two local software engineers, David Dvorak and Chad Reed, and assistance from Code For Atlanta.
“It’s usually only the hyper-informed voter that will even think to look at campaign finance,” Ley adds. “Our hope with this new feature is that more voters will feel empowered to look at this data and make a truly informed vote.”
About Branch: Branch is a Public Benefit Corporation headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information on Branch, please visit www.branch.vote/about. For questions, please contact Walter Ley at firstname.lastname@example.org.