As we noted Tuesday, the Texas Ethics Commission's campaign-finance database allows for better analysis of political spending and fundraising at the state level. It also offers access to data that aren't yet available on the commission's website.
One interesting feature in the full database, which can be dowloaded here, is a field that contains spending categories. These are the 19 specific tags created by the commission to add more transparency to the records. In the past, candidates simply entered free-form text, making it difficult to group spending by type. Now there are specific categories: advertising, consulting, polling, staff, etc.
We've put this data, which covers July 1 to Dec. 31, 2010, into an interactive bubble chart so readers can explore the aggregated spending totals by category, candidate or political party.
The chart shown directly below compares the amount of money candidates spent on advertising. (Notice the drop-down menu next to "Bubble Size" —changing these categories changes the view). Obviously, the two gubernatorial candidates — Gov. Rick Perry and Bill White — spent more than anyone else because television is so expensive. Attorney General Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, both of whom faced nominal competitors, also ran some television ads.
You can also search the records. This view shows total spending, and both Gov. Perry and state Rep. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, are highlighted. (Notice the search field at the bottom of the chart).
The "Color" drop-down menu, at the bottom right of the chart, changes the view as well. Here you can explore by whether candidates won their elections, by their political party, and whether they were incumbents or challengers on election day.
With a little experimentation, there are many other views possible with the chart.
Let us know if you have ideas for data-driven features or visualizations, and be sure to follow @TribData on Twitter.