Political Contributions By Venture Capitalists

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This project proposes examining political contributions by Venture Capitalists to address two basic questions:

  1. Are political contributions by venture capitalists systematic and meaningful?
  2. Are contributions related to a competition effect between private and government-sponsored venture capitalists? This might be attributable to either:
    1. A Crowding-Out Effect
    2. That the presence of GVCs gives entrepreneurs an outside option in negotiation with PVCs, reducing their bargaining surplus

Data on Political Contributions


This project uses data from FollowTheMoney.Org. Data can be retrieved through an XML based API. The Basic documentation on the API states that requests should be of the form:


where the key is the user assigned key (sign-up to get a key!).

A Perl module FollowTheMoney.pm (© Ed Egan, 2009) retrieves data through the XML API and creates tab-delimited text files. This module and other scripts are detailed below.

API Methods

A full list of methods that can be called through the API, with links to their documentation, is provided. Of particular interest to this research are (required request fields are in brackets):

  • candidates.list.php - (key) Provides a list of all candidates, including their IDs
  • candidates.contributions.php - (key,candidate_id) Provides details on all contributions, including contributor name
  • contributors.name_search.php - (key,contributor_name) Provides details on contributors
  • ballot_measures.list.php - (key) Provides details on ballot measures
  • ballot_measures.committees.php - (key) Provides details on ballet measure committees, including committee ID
  • ballot_measures.committees.contributions.php - (key,committee_id) Provides details on contributions to specific ballot measures.

Requesting data through the API

Each account has a limit placed on it that restricts the number of records that can be retrieved through the API per minute. However, requests to the server also become very slow when the page number requested is high. At a restriction rate of 1000 records/minute and 200 records per page, the page requests are slower than the restriction (i.e. no throttling back is required) beyond about page 20. This maybe due to a lack of database caching (particularly, the php scripts may be requesting data from the first page each time). This is particularly problematic when requesting the candidates list, which for most research purposes will be needed as a starting point for subsequent requests.

One work-around this problem is to request candidates (or other data) by state. The state_postal_code variable, requested as state unless in a sort, (presumably) follows the USPS state abbreviation convention. The codes provided in USPS-StateCodes.txt. Sept '09 estimates of number of candidates in the dataset are about 120,000. Given 200 per page, that is about 600 pages. Given 50 states, we expect about 12 pages per state with variation.

Error codes

The API's error codes are returned as XML in the format:

<error code="101" text="access denied - restricted api"
origin="National Institute on Money in State Politics"
process_timestamp="08-21-2006 17:20:43" update_timestamp="08-17-2006 03:15:00">

There following error codes may be returned (the perl module action is in brackets):

  • 100 - invalid key (abort)
  • 101 - access denied - restricted api (abort)
  • 102 - total API call limit has been reached (abort)
  • 103 - total API bytes limit has been reached (abort)
  • 104 - total API records limit has been reached (abort)
  • 105 - call limit for this API method has been reached (wait and retry)
  • 106 - bytes limit for this API method has been reached (wait and retry)
  • 107 - records limit for this API method has been reached (wait and retry)
  • 200 - no records found (record stub)
  • 201 - id# not found - invalid imsp_committee_id number (record stub)
  • 202 - id# not found - invalid imsp_candidate_id number (record stub)
  • 203 - can not use both imsp_sector_code and imsp_industry_code at the same time, please limit your use to just one of them (abort)
  • 300 - missing required input - input_argument is required (abort)



  • PHDBA279 (Berkeley): Non-Market Strategy in Venture Capital (Download PDF)