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A glossary of terms regarding campaign finance, technology, and CA Civic Lab.


A way to go back and fix past financial statements that were misstated because of a reporting error. Adjustments are used to fix mathematical errors, improper accounting methods, and overlooked facts in past periods.

advocacy group

An organized group of people who use various forms of advocacy to influence public opinion and/or policy.


An electronic device or software that automatically dials telephone numbers. Once the call has been answered, the autodialer either plays a recorded message or connects the call to a live person. Under the California Political Reform Act, certain telephone calls must include a disclaimer. (See FPPC Campaign Manual 8.10-11 for details.)


The piece of paper, containing ballot measures, that a voter fills out on a specific day for a specific locality.

ballot committee

According to the SoS, ballot measure committees are committees receiving money for promoting or defeating an initiative, referendum, recall petition, or any measure which has qualified for the ballot. See "How Is A Measure Committee Required To Use Its Funds?" in this document.

ballot item

Any single item or contest on a ballot e.g. Candidate for Mayor or Proposition F.

ballot measure

See referendum.


An individual or entity that contributes to a committee.


The California Cal-Access database. A database of campaign finance information and lobby activity.

calendar year

Twelve-month period starting with January 1 and ending with December 31. Also called civil year.

California Civic Lab

The full name of our organization.


A specification for the format in which campaign and lobbying data can be digitally transmitted to the Secretary of State as defined by SB 49. It is the basis of Cal-Access. The current version is 2.01.

campaign consultant
campaign finance

A person who is running for a specific office, in a specific election, on a specific ballot.

candidate-controlled committees

Committees primarily formed to support or oppose candidates or ballot measures. A “controlled committee” is one which is controlled directly or indirectly by an officeholder, candidate, or state measure proponent, or which acts jointly with an officeholder, candidate, state measure proponent, or another controlled committee in connection with making expenditures. (See California Government Code Section 82016)


A private company providing services to people or companies involved in some aspects of campaign finance management or reporting.


California Civic Data Coalition.


“Contribution” means a payment, a forgiveness of a loan, a payment of a loan by a third party, or an enforceable promise to make a payment, unless it is clear from the surrounding circumstances that it is not made for political purposes. (California Government Code 82015)


One of the 58 administrative divisions of the State of California. Counties are mostly responsible for health services and the management of jails, foster care for children, and Sheriffs and have jurisdiction over land outside of any city boundary. Elections to the Boards of Supervisors of the counties are under the jurisdiction of the State Elections Code.


Comma Separated Value. A machine-readable text format. It is often problematic because commas inside data fields may not be properly escaped.


A JavaScript-based data visualization package. See for more details.

dirty data

Data which is incomplete or difficult to make sense of for a computer. For example, the entity Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association might be referred to as "HVNA", "Hayes Valley Neighborhood, Association", "Hayes Valley Neighborhood Assoc.", "Association of Hayes Valley Neighborhood". It's difficult for computers to understand that all these names refer to the same entity.


To disambiguate a value is to link the value to others which are logically equal, despite text differences in the values. See "dirty data" above.


Duplicates, referring to records which appear duplicated even though they refer to the same entity.


A contest for a specific office in a specific committee.


Extract, transform, load. Referring to pulling data from one source, transforming it, and loading it into another source.


“Expenditure” means a payment, a forgiveness of a loan, a payment of a loan by a third party, or an enforceable promise to make a payment, unless it is clear from the surrounding circumstances that it is not made for political purposes. “Expenditure” does not include a candidate’s use of his or her own money to pay for either a filing fee for a declaration of candidacy or a candidate statement. (Government Code 82025)


A person or entity that is obligated or has been obligated to file information with the FPPC.


California Fair Political Practices Commission. Established by the Political Reform Act of 1974, the FPPC has five members and is set up in such a way that it may be non-partisan in its activities. The Chair hires staff to help support the mission of the Commission.


Geographic Information Systems. GIS software will take a base of geographic information, a map, and add "themes" onto the map. Thus GIS is also called "thematic mapping". For example, one may have a map of Fresno. One can then show the electricity usage per neighborhood and the number of shade trees in these neighborhoods. These are both "themes" that can be applied to the map. One may learn interesting or surprising things by finding themes that have a geographical correlation.


A person who is self-employed, presumably in their own home. This is a common value for "Occupation" on FPPC forms. It may be an interesting exercise to determine how the interests of a person who is listed as a "homemaker" might be related to the political or economic interests of the person's spouse, other members of their family, or their social networks.


See "Independent Expenditure Committee".

in-kind contribution

A contribution to a candidate or a committee that is not in money. Examples of in-kind contributions are catering services, office supplies, or even transportation services via a private jet.

independent expenditure

An expenditure made in connection with a communication which expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate or the qualification, passage or defeat of a clearly identified measure, or taken as a whole and in context, unambiguously urges a particular result in an election but which is not made to or at the behest of the affected candidate or committee. (California Government Code Section 82031)

independent expenditure committee

A committee that makes independent expenditures of $1,000 or more per year on California candidates or ballot measures. An expenditure is independent if it is not made in consultation, cooperation or coordination with the affected candidate or committee. (California Government Code Section 85500)

itemized contribution

Contribution of $100 or more received by a committee. The Political Reform Act (PRA) requires contributions of $100 or more be “itemized,” meaning listed individually with the date, amount, and source of the contribution reported on the committee’s campaign statement. (See PRA 84211, subdivision (f))


JavaScript Object Notation. See for more information.


The "area of concern" or "bailiwick" of an agency or officeholder. A jurisdiction may be a geography (eg the State of California, the City of Santa Cruz), or it may relate to an activity. For example, the State Insurance Commissioner has jurisdiction over the sale of insurance in California.


Under California law, a “lobbyist” is “any individual who receives two thousand dollars ($2,000) or more in economic consideration in a calendar month, other than reimbursement for reasonable travel expenses, or whose principal duties as an employee are, to communicate directly or through his or her agents with any elective state official, agency official, or legislative official for the purpose of influencing legislative or administrative action.” (Government Code 82039)


Encapsulates any type of geographic area: precinct, city, county, state, PSA, zip code, etc.


Data in a format readable by a machine. e.g. JSON, XML, CSV, or even plain text.


A private company providing services to people or companies involved in some aspects of campaign finance management or reporting.

non-itemized contribution

Contributions less than $100 are reported as a total amount received (in other word, not itemized) during the reporting period. However, once a committee has received a total of $100 or more from a contributor in a calendar year, all future contributions received from that contributor in that calendar year, regardless of the amount, must be itemized.


Optical character recognition. Usually referring to software to turn images containing text into text, making an image or document machine-readable.


Open Disclosure California; our project

Open California

See California Civic Lab.

Office Election

An office up for election e.g. San Francisco 2015 Election for Mayor. This term was created by CA Civic Lab.


Public Ethics Commission. Usually referring to a specific city.


“Person” means an individual, proprietorship, firm, partnership, joint venture, syndicate, business trust, company, corporation, limited liability company, association, committee, and any other organization or group of persons acting in concert. (Government Code 82047)

personal funds
phone bank

A phone bank is the organized telephoning of large numbers of people. When a business or other organization allows a committee to use their phones to call prospective voters during non-business hours the fair market value of the use of the phones must be calculated and reported as a nonmonetary contribution, even if only local calls are made.

professional services

See referendum.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)

Measure put to vote by the citizens which if passed, may alter the articles of the jurisdiction's constitution or law.

reporting deadline
reporting period
returned contributions
self funded
small contribution

A private company providing services to people or companies involved in some aspects of campaign finance management or reporting.


Secretary of State (of California)


Specification for a standard JSON/YAML definition of RESTful APIs.


A labor union is an organization of wage earners or salary workers established for the purpose of protecting their collective interests, typically wages, hours, and terms of employment, when dealing with employers.


Extensible markup language

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