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  The 2008 Presidential
            Campaign Finance Analysis

or, the military votes Obama too!


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January 2009

Me: Hello, I'm Jim and I'm a dataholic. You: Hello Jim!

I admit it. I love large sets of data. I love them in a database. I love the feeling of a set of queries that suddenly reveals some nugget of information. I guess that's why I squirreled away the 35M AOL query string dataset when it came available. And that's what leads us on today's journey.

Shortly after the 2008 presidential election was over I was drawn to a site, there are actually several, that lets one search the records of presidential campaign contributions. For those of you who donated to a campaign, you'll remember that you had to provide your name, address, occupation, and employer. This is all required in the interests of fair and transparent election funding. The data is disclosed every so often and these sites aggregate it all. One can search by name, zip code, city, employer, etc. All of the sites restrict the searches in some way. I wanted more.

I awoke a few days later to the thought, "if that data is public, I must be able to order a copy. I wonder what it costs?" Half way through my java the answer was there: the data is free and you can download it. Yes!! Before I was out of the shower I had on my laptop 4M records, totaling a whopping $1.1B in campaign contributions. A few days later and I had it in a SQL database, ready for slicing and dicing. Here's what I've found so far.

1. Saratoga, CA has a reputation of being a Republican stronghold, and you certainly see that in voter registration numbers. But when it came to cash, we were big time Dems. There probably weren't any Ron Paul parties in town.

Contributions from 95070 (Saratoga, CA)

$364,526   Obama, Barack  
159,935   Clinton, Hillary Rodham  
120,663   McCain, John S  
34,865   Romney, Mitt  
23,550   Giuliani, Rudolph W  
13,423   Edwards, John  
7,125   Richardson, Bill  
3,600   Biden, Joseph R Jr  
2,420   Thompson, Fred Dalton  
2,035   Tancredo, Thomas Gerald  
1,500   Hunter, Duncan  
1,250   Paul, Ron  
750   Huckabee, Mike  
700   Kucinich, Dennis J  
300   Gravel, Mike  
250   Dodd, Christopher J  

 2. Google employees gave a lot. Ron Paul was surprisingly popular. John McCain was not.

Contributions from Google employees  
$851,466    Obama, Barack  
82,095   Clinton, Hillary Rodham  
55,924   Paul, Ron  
22,830   McCain, John S  
7,900   Giuliani, Rudolph W  
6,465   Edwards, John  
4,550   Richardson, Bill  
2,400   Kucinich, Dennis J  
2,300   Brownback, Samuel Dale  
1,200   Romney, Mitt  
900   Huckabee, Mike  
500   Thompson, Fred Dalton  
250   Dodd, Christopher J  


3. I wondered about the military. How lopsided was their support for McCain? I started by looking for "army" in the employer category. This led me to find that the Department of Defense was often the employer. The query became quite complex - I loved it. I ended up finding all the entries that contained variants of DoD, Marine, Army, AirForce, and Navy. I then looked at all the distinct occupations in these employers. I searched again on all these occupations to find more distinct employers. After a few iterations I felt like I had all the military and DoD employees. The results were hard to believe:

DoD employees gave to Obama 44%, McCain 25%, Ron Paul 11%, Hillary Clinton 9%.
I wondered if civilian DoD employees were skewing the mix. I went back and tried to qualify just those who's occupation looked like active duty military. Occupations like Officer, Soldier, Military, Naval Officer, Infantry Officer, Lieutenant Colonel, US Marine, etc. I excluded contributors from the National Guard and the Coast Guard. It's not easy to do this kind of classification, so I just did my best. The results were striking:

Active Duty Military Contributions

Total Contrib


Number of Contributions

$405,446      4,128 Obama, Barack
274,397      1,275 McCain, John S
146,750         692 Paul, Ron
64,183         510 Clinton, Hillary
44,074         182 Huckabee, Mike
23,025         103 Thompson, Fred
16,793           85 Romney, Mitt
    The rest received under $10k each

Looking at all the DoD employees that I did not group as active-duty we see that they put Hillary and Ron Paul in a tie for 3rd, while the active duty military favored Ron over Hillary by a significant margin.

All Non Active Duty DoD Employee Contributions

Total Contrib   Number of Contributions      
$653,005      5,693 Obama, Barack    
328,877      1,498 McCain, John S    
159,726      1,012 Clinton, Hillary Rodham    
126,894         762 Paul, Ron    
28,999         126 Romney, Mitt    
27,415         141 Huckabee, Mike    
22,498         100 Thompson, Fred Dalton    
15,705           57 Giuliani, Rudolph W    
13,572         140 Edwards, John    
    The rest received under $10k each    

Friends have suggested I do the analysis on retired military and veterans. Maybe I'll find support for John McCain there - I certainly didn't see it in the actively serving.   

4. I want to do more analysis on corporations. Who did Hughes favor? Halliburton? General Dynamics?

Do you have a question that this data might answer? Send me an email...





Jim Schrempp is a sometimes freelance writer (only Vanity Press will publish his work) living in Saratoga, California. His writings have appeared on numerous pages on his own web site. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of anyone else (although Jim wishes more people shared his opinions)