To kick this blog off, myself, Gavin and a computer assisted reporting (CAR) expert from Britain, Elena Egawhary, have been working on something rather special. We have created a spreadsheet of all declared individual donations to TDs from 1997 to 2008. The spreadsheet contains a large amount of information, easily accessible in one document.
At present the file contains only information relating to donations made to individual TDs. We plan to add donations made to parties in the coming days. Other sheets that make tabulating the data more simple will come before the end of the week.
While the document as it stands contains all data relating to political donations published by SIPO (and its precursor) on every TD since 1997, it’s not complete. We’re looking for help in finishing it. If you open it up and scroll across to column R you’ll see it’s called ‘Background’. This column is far from finished. If you’ve got a minute, pick a donation that has no Background information and try and find some details relating to the donor. Google, newspaper archives, wherever you can get information, and please try and verify it is the same person.
Additionally, if you can help us refine the “Description of Donor” column, we’d appreciate it. Many of them are listed as “Company” or “Individual” and we haven’t had time to go through and give them a more accurate description, if you can take a minute and do a few we might get somewhere.
The aim is to have a document that we can analyse mathematically. So, we’re hoping to be able to say something like: “Of all declared donations since 1997, X% came from people working in the property sector/Trade Unionism/Hotel industry”, and then do the same by party and by year. We’ll also be able to give you information by party on the average value of donation, the largest donors, the occupations that donate the most, and more.
The document at the above link is publicly editable. We ask people viewing it that they do not re-sort the columns, this will change the sort for all people viewing. We also ask that libelous comment is avoided.
If it is slow to load or update please feel free to take a copy and edit it on your own computer in Microsoft Excel (click File – Save a Copy) then copy/paste the cells you’ve altered back in later.
We of course have copies of the file from before we made it publicly editable (so don’t bother trying to wreck the public one). If you want this, send an email to tips[AT]thestory[DOT]ie and we’ll bounce you back an attachment with just the raw, unedited file over the next week.
Journalists in particular may be interested in it as it will contain just the raw data which can be used as a reference in future, e.g you’ll be able to tell exactly how much an individual TD took in declared donations over the course of the last 10 years quickly and easily, without the fear someone may have maliciously edited the numbers.
And do make sure to check out the Missing TDs sheet, it’s the fourth one along the bottom. It’s a list all TDs serving as of 2008 who, as far as we have been able to discover, have never declared an individual donation to SIPO or the Public Office Commission since entering the Dáil.
It’s a pity that SIPO know almost nothing of how our Minister for Health, leading Opposition Spokesman on Finance, Leader of the Opposition, Minister for Justice, Minister for Education, Minister for Gaelteacht and Rural Affairs or former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern fund their respective campaigns. Presumably it has always been through party funds, or they’ve never received a monetary donation of more than €126 (the declaration limit).
One does wonder. Some transparency would put an end to such idle thoughts. Transparency keeps the system honest.
The lower declaration limit should be abolished now, we want to see where every penny comes from.
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