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Saberva

A free, open source tool to parse Virginia State Board of Elections campaign filings.

The name, "Saberva," combines "State Board of Elections" and "Virginia" in a single word, and is rooted in the Spanish "saber," meaning "to know."

Usage

Run at the command line: php saberva.php. It will retrieve a list of every campaign committee that has filed a report since January 1, 2012, and then retrieve a list of every report filed by that committee. The result is a large JSON file (several megabytes). It then iterates through that list of committees, creates a JSON file for each committee, retrieves every cited report, converts that report to JSON, and stores each report as a JSON file. (This produces thousands of JSON files.) Finally, it creates CSV versions of each JSON file, as well as contributions.csv and expenses.csv files that contain all contributions to and expenditures by all committees. Optionally, it will atomize expense and contribution reports down to individual records, storing each contribution and expense as its own JSON file. (This produces hundreds of thousands of JSON files.)

Because the master committee list is demanding to assemble, committees.json, will not be refreshed unless a) 18 hours have elapsed since it was last built b) --reload is passed as a command-line argument (e.g., php saberva.php --reload) or c) committees.json does not exist.

Options

Customizations can be made in config.inc.php.

--reload / -r: Force committees.json—the master committees list—to be rebuilt from the SBE's website, even if it is less than 18 hours old.

--from-cache / -c: Use the cached version of committees.json, no matter how old it is.

--atomize / -a: Create individual JSON files for every contribution and expense.

--verbose / -v: Display additional progress information.

--progress-meter / -p: Display a progress meter as committees.json is built.

--help / -h: Displays a list of parameters and usage examples.

Each switch must be provided individually (e.g., php saberva.php -c -p), rather than grouped (e.g., php saberva -cp).

Resulting files

  • committees.json
  • committees.csv
  • committees/*.json
  • committees/*.csv
  • report/*.json
  • expenses.csv
  • expenses/*.json
  • expenses/*.csv
  • contributions/*.csv
  • contributions/*.json
  • contributions.csv

Data source update schedule

All of the information is pulled from the Virginia State Board of Elections’ Campaign Finance Reports site. Their site's data is updated once daily, at 5 PM EST. Although amendments can be filed on any day of the month, major changes occur as per the filing schedule (e.g., the 2013 candidate committees). There is no benefit to running this more than once per day, and for most purposes, it will only need to be run a few times a year (e.g., July 15 and January 15, for elected officials not on the ballot that November).

LICENSE

Released under the MIT License.

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A parser for bulk campaign finance data files provided by the Virginia State Board of Elections.

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