Obama, Clinton's record campaign finances overwhelm Excel

But you can still read McCain's numbers in a spreadsheet.


Farhad Manjoo
May 27, 2008 2:05AM (UTC)

A quick Memorial Day technology-politics hit, care of Politico's Kenneth Vogel, who describes how this year's record-setting Democratic campaign fundraising has caused some unexpected problems:

A milestone of sorts was reached earlier this year, when Obama, the Illinois senator whose revolutionary online fundraising has overwhelmed Clinton, filed an electronic fundraising report so large it could not be processed by popular basic spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel 2003 and Lotus 1-2-3.

Those programs can't download data files with more than 65,536 rows or 256 columns.

Obama's January fundraising report, detailing the $23 million he raised and $41 million he spent in the last three months of 2007, far exceeded 65,536 rows listing contributions, refunds, expenditures, debts, reimbursements and other details. It was the first report to confound basic database programs since 2001, when the Federal Election Commission began directly posting candidates' fundraising reports online in an effort to make political money more accessible and transparent to voters.

By March, the reports filed by Clinton, a New York senator who attributes Obama's victories in several states to her own lack of money, also could no longer be downloaded into spreadsheets using basic applications.

If you want to comb through Obama or Clinton's cash, you either need to divide and import their reports section-by-section (a time-consuming and mind-numbing process) or purchase a more powerful database application, such as Microsoft Access or Microsoft Excel 2007, both of which retail for $229.

A few paragraphs down, Vogel adds this bit: "In a revealing insight into the significant fundraising disparity between the two Democrats and presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, it is still possible to download his reports with plain-old Excel."

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Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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