This Week in Data: Export Restrictions, Political Spending, and more


This week, we're looking at exchange rates, federal regulations, and the economics of agriculture. We're also trying to trace money in politics, which is probably impossible to do in a comprehensive way. But we're trying anyway.

A penny saved is seven øre earned. From the Federal Reserve, a table of exchange rates for 23* foreign currencies—from the Australian dollar to the Venezuelan bolívar. The data gets updated every Monday. Best of all, weekly historical rates are available back through January 2000, so you can watch values fluctuate over the span of 16 years.

*Greece adopted the euro in 2001, so we’ve got a year of historical data on the drachma. This is why there’s a column for the drachma even though it’s no longer in use—the schema is not prematurely declaring Greece’s exit from the eurozone.

Rules and requirements. The Code of Federal Regulations is basically a compendium of all the rules that are made not by Congress, but by agencies like the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Election Commission. These rules pertain to essentially everything: telecommunications, parks and forests, water conservation, etc. This set represents all regulations of the U.S. federal government, organized by subject and revision date.

Kidneys, by state. In a previous week, we brought up this table of dialysis facilities, which contains individual clinics and medical centers, as well as certain measures of the quality of each facility. This table aggregates dialysis services by state. Apparently, Puerto Rico has a particularly high percentage of patients using vascular catheters.

Selling the farm. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis keeps statistics on all types of economic data, like property income and average industry wages. This particular table tracks annual farm income by county, and contains historical data going back to 1969. That year, Fresno County, located in central California, earned more from farms than any other county. In 2014, Fresno’s farms have been outstripped by nearby Tulare, home to the world’s largest agriculture trade show. Just for scale: Tulare County’s farm income was about the same as that of all of New York State.

Return to sender. If you work for the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation, a North Korean state agency that manages weapons sales, and you’re trying to export something from the United States, you might run into some trouble. The Consolidated Screening List (CSL) specifies all parties on which the U.S. has placed export restrictions. Maybe you’ve run afoul of the State Department’s nonproliferation sanctions, or you’re on the Treasury’s list of sanctions violators—either way, you’ll be on the CSL.

Following (some of) the money, part 1. Many political groups in the U.S. are registered as 527 organizations, a special tax-exempt status that means the group is required to disclose all of its contributions. If you remember the 2004 presidential election, you might recall a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth—they were a 527 organization, and you can now find the names and contribution amounts of every person or group that donated to them.

A caveat: some political action committees (PACs) are 527 organizations. Others, like Citizens United, have 501(c)(4) status, which means they don’t have to disclose contributions. If you’d like to make a contribution to a 527 organization without anyone knowing, you could always donate to a 501(c)(4) that would then relay that money to your desired 527. This is what we talk about when we talk about dark money.

Following (some of) the money, part 2. Here’s how those political organizations are spending their money. The Young Democrats of America are customers of Office Depot. The Texas Federation of Republican Women prefers Office Max. And Florida House Victory, a Tallahassee-based progressive organization, really likes to order catering from a place called Parkway Bagel Bagel.