Tribune builds a Daley data base, but won’t let us see it

The Tribune’s Todd Lighty, Laurie Cohen and John McCormickexamined Mayor Daley’s campaign funders going back to his 1979 race for State’s Attorney. Daley’s largest institutional donors, from ’79 through last week, are the unlikely tandem of the Mercantile Exchange and the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Intl. Union. Real estate mogul (and Tribune bidder?) ranks fourth among individuals, having given more than $200,000. Zell:

said the mayor’s contributions to Chicago might have exceeded those of his father, legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley. Zell cited the city’s political turbulence two decades ago, when Chicago was known as “Beirut on the Lake.”

“Do I have to remind you what the 1980s were like?” Zell said.

The story concludes with this note that speaks to the extensive legwork the reporters conducted:

Prior to the Tribune’s efforts, records of donations made before 1999 to Mayor Richard Daley’s campaigns existed only on paper and could not be analyzed electronically. The Tribune hired a firm to keypunch information from about 7,500 pages of Daley’s campaign finance reports. That data was combined with Daley’s electronic records on file with the Illinois State Board of Elections to form a single database of the money Daley raised and spent from November 1979 through December 2006.

So, the reporters pieced together an amazing set of data for the story.  Would’ve been great if the data could be presented in more dynamic version that the tables they give us. Further, why not open up that data base and let the rest of us play with it?

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