Hawaii Puts Candidates’ Spending on Display
Who is donating to candidates running for office? And, how are those donations used? In Hawaii, finding out answers to these questions just became easier, thanks to the launch of a brand-new campaign-spending app from the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission, which provides details on spending from candidates running for state and local offices.
Hawaii has long been on the cutting edge when it comes to transparently sharing data on donations and spending in races for elected office. In this state, anyone — not just politics wonks or journalists — can follow the money trail, and dig into the donations that fuel campaigns, as well as where candidates choose to spend their money. Previously, though, data was searchable only by candidate. This new app does something different — and not previously done — by allowing users to track donations and spending across campaigns. Through the app, the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission tells a story about the data.
A New Kind of Analysis
The campaign-spending app is the latest addition to other data visualizations available on the Commission’s dashboard. By law, candidates in Hawaii must report who gives campaign donations as well as how the money is spent. That information could easily be put in an Excel spreadsheet, and then stashed on a hard drive, making the data not easily discoverable for citizens, the media, or even government staffers. Instead, Hawaii is sharing the data publicly, in easily digestible and shareable pie charts, graphs, and other visualizations.
“What we’ve built with Socrata shows all of the races in the state, how much money is coming into these races, and what candidates are spending the money on. That’s a type of analysis that has not been shown before,” says Kristin Izumi-Nitao, Executive Director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission.
Through the app, users can easily see:
- Contributions received by all candidates running for state or county office in ‘18
- Expenditures made by all candidates running for state or county office in ‘18
- Loans received by all candidates running for state or county office in ‘18
As well, charts make it easy for site visitors to see which candidates running for election this year receive the most contributions, take out the most loans, and make the most expenditures. Super PAC spending to support — or oppose — candidates is also visible.
“What we’ve built with Socrata shows all of the races in the state, how much money is coming into these races, and what candidates are spending the money on. That’s a type of analysis that has not been shown before.” —Kristin Izumi-Nitao, Executive Director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission
Adding the Ability to Easily Compare Candidate Spending
The Hawaii Election Dashboard already shared individual-level campaign spending through the Candidate Data Visualization app, where site users can write in a candidate’s name, and see donations and spending for a time period of their choice. This is fascinating, of course, but it’s data provided free from context. That can make it hard to know how to assess the numbers: Are candidates spending a lot or a little? The answer is unclear. The new app takes the experience a step further, allowing users to compare one candidate’s spending and donations to another’s.
“Instead of a siloed version of a candidate, this app provides a comprehensive yet comparative analysis type of viewpoint,” says Izumi-Nitao. The dashboard is instrumental in capturing where money is going and how it’s moving through the community, says Izumi-Nitao. And, the data is provided in real-time, so people can proactively use the data to inform their voting decisions (rather than digging into spending details post-election).
“The dashboard Socrata helped create for us is really instrumental in getting the story out there to the people.” —Kristin Izumi-Nitao, Executive Director of the Hawaii Campaign Spending Commission
Since 2014, when Hawaii partnered with Socrata to launch the Candidate Data Visualization app mentioned above, as well as a Noncandidate Committee Data Visualization app, the state has been at the forefront of sharing campaign-spending data. Journalists have noticed, and taken advantage of, the data’s availability. “We’re getting information out there without the media having to call us,” notes Izumi-Nitao. “The dashboard Socrata helped create for us is really instrumental in getting the story out there to the people,” she says.
Read our case study on how the state of Hawaii uses data to encourage voter turnout.