So they bought a federal candidate, now what?*
SHORTHAND GUIDE TO OPENSECRETS.ORG
Four ways to access:
Open Data: http://www.opensecrets.org/resources/create/data.php
(You need to create an account to access these, but they're both free, although subject to some use restrictions).
The website, generally, has a lot of places you can see data in various forms of improvement.
Finally, call us. Some work that might be a lot of work for you is easy for us, and doing work for reporters is part of our mission.
WHERE WE GET OUR STUFF:
The FEC: See Chris Schnaars' guide for a way you can DIY this, if for some reason you'd want to. Another good resource is Paul Clark, who works in their data office.
The FEC receives data from filers and the Senate and House, but before that data lands in their bulk data file, they go through an auditing process. This means that their bulk files are often delayed. You can collect the electronic data provided by filers, but this excludes all Senate filers and you'll need to clean up a lot of the junk in these files yourself.
The Senate: XML files, updated daily, of electronically-filed lobbying data.
The House: We use this to establish some links you can't see otherwise in the data.
The IRS: We collect both 527s data and "manifest" data related to nonprofits.
990 data can also be collected manually -- the IRS is often slower to respond to requests than the organizations themselves, who are required by law to provide you with their public documents, including their application materials when they're applying to be nonprofits.
Sometimes these groups can be squirrely.
Donor lookup: Allow you to see individual contributions to candidates, PACs, 527s, etc. Searches the FEC-quality data, not CRP's data, so you need to look for all combinations of a donor's name.
Member Profiles: Easy ways to see top-level data about members of Congress. Top donors, bills sponsored, top corporate donors, etc.
New Expenditures Section: A pared-down version of all campaign expenditures, allowing you to see the top vendors for most campaign entities, as well as the vendors taking in the most political money generally. Coming soon: more!
Outside Spending: Live-ish Independent Expenditures and electioneering communications data. Updated 5 times daily, de-duped, standardized, and checked for quality.
Dark Money: Very un-live data on the donors to political nonprofits, as well as links -- where appropriate -- to a group's political spending.
Recent stock transactions for House members: Delayed data on who is buying and selling stock in publicly-traded companies.
Lobbying: Major section with all sorts of lobbying data from both the Senate and the House. Standardized and unique lobbyists, their donations (taken from the FEC), registrations, etc.
Committee Profiles: Data on money and committee relationships.