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Campaign Finance Database Frequently Asked Questions

Answers

How do I access the campaign finance database?

The URL for the campaign finance database is: http://nf4.netfile.com/pub2?aid=sfo.

Which campaign finance statements are accessible from the campaign finance database?

All electronic and paper filed statements are recorded in the campaign finance database after they are submitted to the Ethics Commission.  Electronically filed statements are immediately accessible within minutes of submission by clicking View PDF next to the statement record.  To view a statement you must have a PDF viewer installed on your computer.  Paper statements are manually recorded, scanned and attached to the database and are viewable by clicking View PDF next to the statement record.  Paper statements that have not yet been scanned and attached to the database are marked as Visit Office and are accessible at the Ethics Commission's offices during regular business hours from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

How far back does the Ethics Commission maintain electronic campaign finance records?

The Ethics Commission maintains electronic campaign finance records since 1998. Some historical records prior to 1998 are available in the database when using the computers at the Commission's office.

Can I search for transactions within a statement?

Yes, there are two search options available:

  1. You can search for transactions from within FPPC Forms 460, 461, 465, 496, and 497 submitted electronically using the Advanced Search.  This tools is best for simpler searches that span multiple transaction types. Click Advanced Search on the left-side of the Campaign Finance Database to access the transaction search. The advanced search only shows transactions from the most recently amended version of a report. This search tool is limited to 2,000 results.
  2. You can create complex filters of campaign finance data using the tools at data.sfgov.org. This tool is best for more complex searches of a single transaction type. Click the type of transaction you want to search under the "Complete Datasets" heading on the Campaign Finance Filings and Data page and then click the expand button in the table. Then click the filter button to create complex filters of data.

Can I search across multiple transaction types in the advanced search?

Yes, you can search across multiple transaction types by either selecting to search all transaction types or multiple transaction types.  To select multiple transaction types, hold down the control key (Windows) or command key (Macintosh) on your keyboard and select the individual transaction types you want to include in your search.

Are there a maximum number of results that can be downloaded at once from the advanced?

Yes, you can obtain 2,000 transactions at a time that can be viewed on the web or exported to Microsoft Excel or Word.  If your search criteria results in more than 2,000 transactions then you should narrow your search criteria to obtain the data.  The search results will notify you if your query went over the maximum transaction limit.  If you need to obtain a download of more than 2,000 transactions at a time, consider using one of the Excel exports or the datasets at data.sfgov.org.  This is explained below.

How can I obtain a download of all of the transactions electronically filed by a particular committee?

To obtain a transaction export by committee, follow the steps below:

  1. Search for a committee using the "Search By Name" or "Search by Filer ID" field.
  2. In the search results, click the name of a committee.
  3. Click the "Export Amended" or "Export All" button at the bottom of the list of filings.  You can narrow the results by selecting a year from the drop-down menu.  "Export Amended" will download only the most recent version of each statement.  "Export All" will download every version of a report which may result in transactions being represented more than once.
  4. The Microsoft Excel report will download inside a compressed file in ZIP format.  Open the ZIP file to obtain the report.
  5. View the key to interpret the columns.

Exported transactions do not contain address data.  To obtain address data, download the report using a computer in the Ethics Commission's office during regular business hours.

How can I obtain the original electronic filing submitted by a committee in CAL format?

To view the electronic filing submitted by a committee in CAL format, please visit the Ethics Commission's offices during regular business hours from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and request access at the front desk to the campaign finance database Kiosk-mode.  Kiosk-mode allows access to the original CAL file submitted by a committee.  To view a CAL file, follow the directions below:

  1. Request access to kiosk-mode and login to the campaign finance database.
  2. Search for a committee or candidate using the "Search By Name" field.
  3. In the search results, click the name of a candidate or committee.
  4. Click "view" next to an electronically filed report.
  5. The CAL file and unredacted statement in PDF format will download inside a compressed file in ZIP format.  Open the ZIP file to obtain the CAL file.

What is the difference between results in the candidates and committees section of the name search?

Selecting to view statements by committee name will only show the statements submitted by that particular committee.  Selecting to view statements by candidate will show all statements that are related to the candidate as an individual.  For example, viewing statements by candidate would show the candidate's statements from every committee he or she controlled since 1998.

What information is redacted from statements in the database?

Street address information and original signatures are redacted from statements in compliance with state law.  To view street addresses and original signatures, please visit the Ethics Commission's offices during regular business hours from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. and use the computers in the public access room to view unredacted documents and data.

I don't own Microsoft Excel.  How can I view transactions exported to an Excel file?

The advanced search and transaction downloads for committees and candidates are provided in Microsoft Excel format.  To view Microsoft Excel files, download the Microsoft Excel viewer from the link at the bottom of the page.  Alternatively, the Ethics Commission provides workstations with Microsoft Excel 2013 available for use by the public during regular business hours from 8:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

Alternatively, you can filter transactions using the complete datasets at data.sfgov.org which provides you with an interface similar to a spreadsheet, but in your web browser.

How can I obtain a download of all transacton types by year or all transactions for one transaction type in the database?

All transaction types by year

From the main page of the campaign finance database, in the "Export E-Filed Data" section, select a year from the drop-down box and click either "Export Amended" or "Export All".  "Export Amended" will download only the most recent version of each statement.  "Export All" will download every version of a report which may result in transactions being represented more than once.  Due to the size of the export, this particular export represents transactions submitted into the system as of the previous calendar day.  The export is updated every night.  View the key to interpret the columns.

All transactions for one transaction type in the database

Choose the type of transaction you want to download in the complete datasets at data.sfgov.org. Above the table for a transaction type, click the "Menu" button and choose "Download". Click "CSV" as the file type. This file-type will open in Excel and allows unlimited rows. Do not choose to download in "Excel" format or the system will limit the number of rows in the download.

How can I monitor certain types of filings from any filer over a given period of time?

From the main page of the campaign finance database, fill in the "Start Date" and "End Date" under the "Search Filings by Date" heading and click the "Search" button.  Any forms turned in between your start date and end date will appear in the search results.  The search results are sorted by "Filing Date" by default.  To look for a specific type of form in the results, sort the list by form, alphabetized A-Z, by clicking the word "Form" in the headline of the table.  Clicking the word "Form" a second time sorts the list Z-A.  Click through the page numbers at the bottom of the table to move to the page that includes the form you are looking for.  All of the filers that turned in the form during the provided date range will appear in the list.  Forms that are viewable online will appear with a "view" link to the right of the filing.  Filings that are only available in paper format in the Ethics Commission office are marked as "Visit Office".