Data is everywhere but often inaccessible.
The Accountability Project is a collaborative effort to collect what is normally siloed public data in a single, searchable database. Our team gathers public data from federal, state and municipal agencies and standardizes it for our central public database.
The TAP data team has encountered almost every variation in data format, type and availability in the process of constructing this project. We have submitted Freedom of Information Act requests, downloaded mangled CSV files, worked with public API endpoints, scraped thousands of PDF pages and combined dozens of Excel spreadsheets. With these many different types of data offerings, we have run across the highs and lows of public data distribution. We have encountered small municipal departments with thorough documentation and clean data. Yet some federal agencies are often another story, with messy data and missing documentation.
While TAP is based on public data from individual states and agencies, not all public data is easily accessible. The goal of this project is to provide a single search tool through which journalists, policy professionals, activists and the public can find otherwise hard-to-access information across a multitude of disciplines.
With that driving aim, the TAP team has constructed a catalog of datasets with powerful, newly standardized information. Our datasets include campaign finance information, data on nonprofits, licensing and more. Check out the full data catalog. Additional data, such as voter registrations and property data, are available by password. Go here to request a password. With more than 1.5 billion public records, we’ve made a broad collection of information easily accessible.
And as we continue to expand our offerings and update data, we are constantly seeking feedback for other data to include.
We also collect examples of how TAP is helping newsrooms, such as this story from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about the finances of Jan Koum, the reclusive WhatsApp founder. If you’ve used TAP for a story, please let us know.
Kiernan Nicholls contributed to this story.