Project:
The Federal Election Commission

Making campaign data easier to use

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulates how candidates and political groups raise and spend money in federal elections.

The FEC has published campaign finance data for decades, but their legacy website was dense and hard to use. They wanted to make it easier for journalists, transparency groups, and members of the public to use their data and learn how money flows through federal campaigns.

Start small, learn together

We started by working with the FEC to launch an API (application programming interface), which allows technical users (like journalists) to access data in a predictable way.

Next, we launched a public beta, which allowed us to get feedback from real users and build new features based on what we learned.

As our FEC partners saw the benefits of working iteratively and putting user needs first, they asked us to work alongside them to solve other problems, including:

  • Creating search tools so laws, regulations, and enforcement actions are easier to find and use.
  • Migrating confusing legacy content into a new structure so visitors can find and understand the information they need.
  • Exploring how to update the online filing process to help political groups and candidates file the right forms.

Through all these projects, we’ve worked closely with FEC teams so they can transform their whole approach to interacting with the public online.

In the words of one product owner at the FEC: “We didn’t know where to start, but in the end, we got so much more than a website. We had a complete culture change about how to do user-centered design and agile.”

Our blog posts about this work

  • The life-changing magic of writing release notes

    A key part of agile development is constantly shipping new features. With so many changes happening to the product, it can be hard to keep track of how the product is growing and improving. Release notes help keep everyone on the team in the know about what’s shipping, give a clear list of features to check, and help always frame our work in terms of the value it delivers to users.

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    Get the most juice out of the squeeze

    Through analytics and moderated sessions, we can learn what user goals are and enhance the platform to help them achieve those goals. By creating universal search across legal resources, people will be able to locate information more efficiently. This tool will allow them to better understand and comply with campaign finance laws, thus helping advance the FEC's mission.

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    Building better by building together with the Federal Election Commission

    How do you work iteratively and in the open in government? How do you transform an agency’s digital presence with agile and user-centered design? We’ve learned a lot about this as we’ve worked alongside our partners at the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on beta.fec.gov, and we want to share some of those lessons here.

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    Plain language for the win: betaFEC’s new content design

    The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has been working since the 1970s to clarify the rules for raising and spending money in federal elections, and today we’re thrilled to announce the first major content launch of betaFEC: a guide to registration and reporting that makes intricate information easier to understand.

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    Welcome to betaFEC: campaign finance for everyone

    As the 2016 presidential election heats up, here at 18F we’ve been working with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to make campaign finance data more accessible to the public. Today, we launched betaFEC, the first piece in a complete redesign of the FEC’s online presence. We were excited to work on a project that allowed us to delve into intricate campaign finance data, plain language, and the FEC’s first API.

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    67 million more Federal Election Commission records at your fingertips

    The OpenFEC API added a filings endpoint as well as itemized receipt and disbursement data. This is the first major update to the API: The records we’re adding today are the meat and potatoes of campaign finance. You can see in detail where a campaign’s money comes from and where they spend their money.

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  • Introducing the Federal Election Commission’s first API

    Today marks the launch of the FEC’s first API. With that API, searching for candidates and committees will be easier and more interactive. Information is organized around concepts like candidates, which are more welcoming than navigating buckets of information based on forms.

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  • Creating an open FEC

    A few weeks ago, FEC and 18F started to explore how campaign finance information can be better presented to the public. Over the past few weeks, we’ve begun learning all we can about the FEC, the process by which it collects and shares data, and how individuals outside of FEC use that data on a regular basis to gain insights into the workings of our democracy.

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