Just for fun, I put the latest campaign contributions in the St. Petersburg mayor's race into a spreadsheet. This took less than a day.
Wanna see? It should be on our Web site this morning. Go to links.tampabay.com. You should find an Excel file that you can download and run your own simple searches on.
You can look up donations by candidate, donor name, address, city state and ZIP code or occupation. There also are summary statistics for each candidate.
There are two reasons for doing this:
(1) St. Petersburg only requires candidates to file their reports on paper, instead of filing their contributions in a way that makes it possible for the public to search and analyze them.
(2) The leading candidates declined or ignored a request by the St. Petersburg Times to provide their data in a different form that could be searched and analyzed. One of the candidates said he didn't know if it was even "technically possible."
Hockey pucks! Took me less than a full Thursday. The candidates don't want to make it easier for citizens to have modern, simple, everyday techniques for scrutinizing their contributions.
Here's the most interesting thing that Howard's Handy-Dandy Homemade Spreadsheet shows. One of the candidates, Deveron Gibbons, continues to get a lot of his money from outside St. Petersburg.
For the reporting period ending July 24, Gibbons got 59 percent of his dollars, just over $5,000, from non-St. Petersburg addresses.
Next was Scott Wagman, who got 30 percent of his money from non-St. Petersburg addresses. No one else got more than 20 percent.
Gibbons is certainly a popular fellow. Contributions came from Tallahassee, Orlando, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and even from a Dallas development company.
Most of Wagman's money in July, on the other hand, came from himself. He loaned his campaign $80,000 in four $20,000 installments. I backed these loans out of the spreadsheet because they skewed the averages and the goal was to study contributions, not self-loans.
Gibbons and Wagman had a slightly higher average contribution size, reflecting the fact they were most likely to get the maximum contribution of $500. Kathleen Ford, in contrast, didn't get a single $500 contribution during the period, although she did have more "repeat customers" than the others, donors who gave to her more than once.
I also ran an analysis by ZIP codes and saw that Bill Foster was tops in the northeast part of the city (33702, 33703, 33704). Wagman, on the other hand, led the money race in 33701, the downtown core. Gibbons won the south-central core of the city (33711, 33712, 33713).
The downtown folks in the 33701 ZIP code provided the most money donated to all candidates during the period, followed by the Old Northeast/Snell Isle/Shore Acres residents in 33704. No surprise there, but it confirms these are politically plugged-in areas. ZIP code 33710 in the western city, which takes in all of Tyrone Boulevard, showed up in sixth place.
We're working on a better version of a campaign-contribution database in the mayor's race, but in the meantime, as I said, I thought I'd throw this together just for fun. The point is, this kind of information ought to be available as a matter of course.