Telescope. A stock ticker for the Political Economy

Jon Lewis
Jon Lewis
Sep 14, 2018 · 4 min read

Campaign Finance is a +$10B/yr industry and we need to start treating it like one.

I’m excited to introduce Telescope, Circa Victor’s first publicly facing platform for observing federal campaign finance activity in real time.

We’ve married our world class data set with a pleasant user experience; the result is a simple-to-use destination for staying up to date on how money is moving through our elections. You can think of Telescope as a sort of ‘stock ticker’ for the #politicaleconomy.

Today we’re launching with an incredibly simple set of features. Our aim is to help everyone out there get a little more acquainted with the data that we look at everyday.

Here’s how Telescope works.

We built Telescope because accessing data from the Federal Election Commission is an outrageous task. Here are some of the key features that we’re launching with and why they matter.


A bird’s eye view

First off you’ll notice that we’re featuring nationwide statistics quite prominently. We’re able to calculate accurate figures on total dollars raised and spent, as well a headcount on the parties involved. This is useful for understanding the volume of capital that’s floating around behind the scenes.


Spot the Big Spenders

Telescope also displays a list of the three most funded political entities currently filing with the Federal Election Commission. You can think of this as a sort of leaderboard for activity, we’ll get deeper into this aspect in a later post.


Statewide Breakdown

Finally, we’ve segmented all of the nationwide data down to the state level. Users are able to search for any state or territory to explore the financial details up to this point in the election cycle. Telescope also exposes top players in each state along with support / opposition spending.


Telescope’s data is updated in real-time and provides excellent context around location, entities, and financial behavior. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to understand whats going on:

Locations

Telescope exposes the total dollars raised in any specific state as well as the total dollar amount contributed from outside of that state. Why is this interesting? All of politics is local. It’s important that communities are able to understand not only how much money is being spent to influence their elections, but also where that money is coming from. For instance: investigating dollars that were raised from outside of your state could provide some insights on how different regions of the country are supporting or opposing one another.

Entities

It’s critical that we’re able to identify the major players and big spenders in our elections. Entities like super PACs and large campaign committees typically move a high volume of cash around with very specific patterns. Telescope highlights the top funded organizations in each state and links out directly to their profiles on fec.gov for easy inspection.

Financial Behavior

Lastly, we start to unpack some of the juicy details that typically drive news stories. Observing spending totals in support or opposition of candidates is a great way to quantify how resources are being allocated in tough races. Telescope also exposes the top spending categories in each state, we’ll dive deeper into that aspect in a later post as well.


Deeper Down The Rabbit Hole

Telescope’s data set will soon extend beyond high level metrics. Our next step is to introduce senatorial and congressional races into the app. Among a number of other power features we have on the roadmap, we’re actively working on building search functionality for entities. This will help everyone form a clearer picture of relationships between candidates, super PACs, and vendors like Facebook or Google.

It’s our responsibility as a tech company to serve the public’s best interest, particularly in the political transparency arena. This initial launch of Telescope is the first product in a suite of tools that we’re designing. I encourage you to head over to telescope.circavictor.com to try it out for yourself.

We’re here to empower journalists, political professionals, and voters to make the most informed decisions possible. If you have any questions about the integrity of our data or have specific requests for detailed analysis, don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly via email or social media.

Stay tuned for more on the #politicaleconomy.

Circa Victor

Stories from Circa Victor’s leadership Team

Jon Lewis

Written by

Jon Lewis

Design entrepreneur and black man from Hawaii. Co-Founder of Circa Victor. Previously lead design at Elevate. 500 Startups Alum + Designer Fund Bridge Alum.

Circa Victor

Stories from Circa Victor’s leadership Team

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