a python parser for the .fec file format (github) (PyPi)

This is a library for converting campaign finance filings stored in the .fec format into native python objects. It maps the comma/ASCII 28 delimited fields to canonical names based on the version the filing uses and then converts the values that are dates and numbers into the appropriate int, float, or datetime objects.

This library is in relatively early testing. I’ve used it on a couple of projects, but I wouldn’t trust it to work on all filings. That said, if you do try using it, I’d love to hear about it!


The FEC makes a ton of data available via the “export” links on the main site and the developer API. For cases where those data sources are sufficient, they are almost certainly the easiest/best way to go. A few cases where one might need to be digging into raw filings are:

Raw filings can be found by either downloading the bulk data zip files or from http requests like this. This library includes helper methods for both.


To get started, install from pypi by running the following command in your preferred terminal:

pip install fecfile


For the vast majority of filings, the easiest way to use this library will be to load filings all at once by using the from_http(file_number), from_file(file_path), or loads(input) methods.

These methods will return a Python dictionary, with keys for header, filing, itemizations, and text. The itemizations dictionary contains lists of itemizations grouped by type (Schedule A, Schedule B, etc.).


import fecfile
import json

filing1 = fecfile.from_file('1229017.fec')
print(json.dumps(filing1, sort_keys=True, indent=2, default=str))

filing2 = fecfile.from_http(1146148)
print(json.dumps(filing2, sort_keys=True, indent=2, default=str))

with open('1229017.fec') as file:
    parsed = fecfile.loads(file.read())
    print(json.dumps(parsed, sort_keys=True, indent=2, default=str))

url = 'http://docquery.fec.gov/dcdev/posted/1229017.fec'
r = requests.get(url, headers={'User-Agent': 'Mozilla/5.0'})
parsed = fecfile.loads(r.text)
print(json.dumps(parsed, sort_keys=True, indent=2, default=str))

Note #1: the default=str parameter allows serializing to json for dictionaries like the ones returned by the fecfile library that contain datetime objects.

Note #2: the docquery.fec.gov urls cause problems with the requests library when a user-agent is not supplied. There may be a cleaner fix to that though.

Advanced Usage

For some large filings, loading the entire filing into memory like the above examples do would not be a good idea. For those cases, the fecfile library provides methods for parsing filings one line at a time.

import fecfile

version = None

with open('1263179.fec') as file:
    for line in file:
        if version is None:
            header, version = fecfile.parse_header(line)
            parsed = fecfile.parse_line(line, version)

API Reference


loads(input, options={})

Deserialize input (a str instance containing an FEC document) to a Python object.

Optionally, pass an array of strings to options['filter_itemizations']. If included, loads will only parse lines that start with any of the strings in that array. For example, passing {'filter_itemizations': ['SC', 'SD']} to options, will only include Schedule C and Schedule D itemizations. Also, passing {'filter_itemizations': []} to options will result in only the header and the filing being parsed and returned.



Deserialize a str or a list of str instances containing header information for an FEC document. Returns an Python object, the version str used in the document, and the number of lines used by the header.

The third return value of number of lines used by the header is only useful for versions 1 and 2 of the FEC file format, when the header was a multiline string beginning and ending with /*. This allows us to pass in the entire contents of the file as a list of lines and know where to start parsing the non-header lines.


parse_line(line, version, line_num=None)

Deserialize a line (a str instance containing a line from an FEC document) to a Python object.

version is a str instance for the version of the FEC file format to be used, and is required.

line_num is optional and is used for debugging. If an error or warning is encountered, whatever is passed in to line_num will be included in the error/warning message.


from_http(file_number, options={})

Utility method for getting a parsed Python representation of an FEC filing when you don’t already have it on your computer. This method takes either a str or int as a file_number and requests it from the docquery.fec.gov server, then parses the response.

See above for how documentation on how to use the optional options argument.


from_file(file_path, options={})

Utility method for getting a parsed Python representation of an FEC filing when you have the .fec file on your computer. This method takes a str of the path to the file, and returns the parsed Python object.

See above for how documentation on how to use the optional options argument.



Utility method for debugging - prints out a representative subset of the Python object returned by one of the deserialization methods. For filings with itemizations, it only prints the first of each type of itemization included in the object.

Developing locally

Assuming you already have Python3 and the ability to create virtual environments installed, first clone this repository from github and cd into it:

git clone https://github.com/esonderegger/fecfile.git
cd fecfile

Then create a virtual environment for this project (I use the following commands, but there are several ways to get the desired result):

python3 -m venv ~/.virtualenvs/fecfile
source ~/.virtualenvs/fecfile/bin/activate

Next, install the dependencies:

python setup.py

Finally, make some changes, and run:

python tests.py


This project would be impossible without the work done by the kind folks at The New York Times Newsdev team. In particular, this project relies heavily on fech although it actually uses a transformation of this fork.

Many thanks to Jacob Fenton for writing the caching logic and for providing valuable feedback about the overall design of this library.


I would love some help with this, particularly with the mapping from strings to int, float, and datetime types. Please create an issue or make a pull request. Or reach out privately via email - that works too.

To do:

Almost too much to list:


0.5.3 (February 12, 2019)

0.5.2 (January 19, 2019)

0.5.1 (January 18, 2019)

0.5.0 (January 17, 2019)

0.4.11 (January 12, 2019)

0.4.10 (November 7, 2018)

0.4.9 (November 6, 2018)

0.4.8 (November 6, 2018)

0.4.7 (November 2, 2018)

0.4.6 (October 29, 2018)

0.4.5 (October 27, 2018)

0.4.4 (October 17, 2018)

0.4.3 (October 10, 2018)

0.4.2 (October 9, 2018)

0.4.1 (October 4, 2018)


0.3.9 (October 1, 2018)

0.3.8 (September 28, 2018)

0.3.7 (September 27, 2018)

0.3.6 (September 27, 2018)

0.3.5 (September 26)

0.3.4 (September 18, 2018)

0.3.3 (September 18, 2018)

0.3.2 (August 29, 2018)

0.3.1 (August 29, 2018)

0.3.0 (August 27, 2018)

0.2.3 (August 24, 2018)

0.2.2 (August 23, 2018)

0.2.1 (August 21, 2018)

0.2.0 (August 2, 2018)

0.1.9 (July 18, 2018)

0.1.8 (June 26, 2018)

0.1.7 (June 26, 2018)

0.1.6 (June 25, 2018)

0.1.5 (June 21, 2018)