Get the opensecrets data into a postgres database
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Get The OpenSecrets Data Into A Postgres Database

This repo is to help people easily (ok, semi-easily) get all the opensecrets campaign contribution data off the internet and into a postgres database. It took me a decent amount of time to automate lots of the things you would otherwise need to do manually and learn about the hard way. Hopefully this saves future researchers lots of time.

The Easy Way

For those that care only about getting the data, I uploaded a pg_dump of the database to S3.

The specific command I used was:

pg_dump -Fc campaign_finance > campaign_finance.dump

You can download the database from this link:

database dump

Assuming you have postgres installed, run the following from your terminal command line from the folder containing the file you just downloaded:

pg_restore -C -d campaign_finance campaign_finance.dump

This will create a campaign finance database, and load it up with all the data you need. The total size of the database without indexes is about 5 gigs.

I'm going to be updating the create_open_secrets_db_sql file with additional indexes as I find them necessary for my use case. If you want to add these indexes to your version of the data, just check at the bottom of that file, and copy the index commands after you psql into the database.

The Hard Way

This should work on any OSX or Linux systems, but won't work on Windows.

Get The Files

To start with, you need to go to Open Secrets, create an account, and download all the yearly data files. There are 5 database tables, with files for every election season from 1990 through 2014. The five tables are committees, candidates, individual contributions, pacs and pac to pacs. You will need to download lots of files.

Take all those files and put them into the same folder, without renaming them. Then copy the files from this repo into that folder.

Combining The Yearly Files

Run the bash script as follows to clean and combine all the files for easy upload into postgres.


Getting The Data Into Postgres

If you don't have postgres, you need to go download it and get it set up.

Log into postgres and create a database named "campaign_finance".

Then psql campaign_finance to enter your new database.

Open up the create_open_secrets_db.sql file from this repo.

Paste the commands one by one into your terminal. You could probably just run the whole file, and you would be ok, but I would recommend running the commands one by one, to make sure that there aren't any issues.

The most likely issue you might find is a formatting error somewhere in the combined files while you are copying. Postgres will let you know the line number of the error, so you can just open up the file in a text editor, go directly to that line, and generally fix the formatting error. Save the file, and then try the copy command again.

You will see that the old individual_contributions_combined file is split into multiple parts. This is because the file is too large to fit into memory on my computer, and had problems being copied into the database.

I'm going to be adding indexes to this file as I use the data, and these are optional. They make an already large database larger, so you can decide which, if any, of these indexes you want to include for your research. I'll sort them by how useful they are to me.

Questions / Problems

Open up a github issue and I'll do my best to help.


  1. Fork it
  2. Create your feature branch (git checkout -b my-new-feature)
  3. Commit your changes (git commit -am 'Add some feature')
  4. Push to the branch (git push origin my-new-feature)
  5. Create new Pull Request