Short Course: Using CFI, NIMSP, and CRP Campaign Finance Data for Teaching and Research

Using CFI, NIMSP, and CRP Campaign Finance Data for Teaching and Research

Bruce Larson
1:30 pm – 5:30pm

As most scholars of American politics already know, there is a treasure trove of data on money in politics, lobbying, personal finances, and legislative politics, on the websites of the three organizations featured in this short course – the Center for Responsive Politics, National Institute on Money in State Politics, and the Campaign Finance Institute. Less well known is how scholars can most easily use what is there to serve their research and teaching goals. This half day course will help scholars unlock this potential.

Public call to the discipline for sharing research applications and classroom exercises:
The course will begin with the three organizations emphasizing their database contents and applications. Other faculty will then be called upon to explain or demonstrate how they have put the material to use in their research and teaching. Once this short course has been approved, a call will go out to the discipline for scholars who wish to share their applications with others. Past articles, papers, and classroom exercises will be solicited and posted. A small number of volunteers may be asked to make brief presentations, but all submissions will be available online even if the submitter cannot attend in person.

Among the subjects the executive directors expect to cover will be the following:

• Using unique entity identifiers from NIMSP and CRP to trace donors, lobbyists, and recipients, across all fifty states (NIMSP) and the federal level (CRP and NIMSP) over time;
• Using CRP and NIMSP for cross-tracking committee memberships, campaign contributions, and lobbying expenditures, with legislative jurisdictions and actions;
• Combining CFI’s historical database of state campaign finance laws with other data sources to analyze the impact of campaign finance law on outcomes;
• Combining large data sets from these organizations with other large data sets; and
• Using CRP to track spending by super PACs and dark money groups; political ad data; and foreign lobbying data, as well the personal finances, net worth and potential conflicts of interest of Members of Congress and public officials over time;
These subjects will be supplemented by the research and teaching applications we hope to see submitted. Those who register will also be asked in advance whether they have specific research or teaching applications they would like the course to address.

In addition to representatives from the three organizations, the three political scientists who will help kick off the teaching and research discussions are:

• Keith Hamm (Rice University) will address a variety of research issues, problems and potential benefits that arise from working with the data, building on his recent research on state legislative committees.
• Paul Herrnson (University of Connecticut) will discuss his use of CRP data to study super PACs, including coding and cleaning the data; combining them with additional data; addressing anomalies; and analyzing, at different units of analysis, contributions and expenditures.
• Jaclyn Kettler (invited, Boise State University) will provide examples of previous courses using the websites’ resources for classroom applications, demonstrating features helpful for lectures and undergraduate research projects.

Participants are invited to bring their laptops, equipped with data sets if they wish. We are working to see whether we can assure sufficient bandwidth at the convention center to let everyone attending have a hands-on experience.

Registrants will be invited to submit specific research or teaching applications they would like the course to address.


**All Short Courses will take place on Wednesday, August 29 at the APSA 2018 Annual Meeting in Boston, MA.**