Catching up with Christina Johnson of campaign data fame, and what she will be up to early Thursday morning

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Christina Johnson wanted to know what candidates were bringing in, spending, and how much cash they had left in hand, but was disappointed with what Florida’s Division of Elections had to offer in their presentation of the data. So she did the work herself.

That was 17 years ago. Today, Johnson’s bright orange lists are near famous, at least among Florida’s consultants and political nerds who live off of this kind of info.

When campaign finance reports are finalized by midnight each quarter, Johnson stays up for the rest of us and culls the data, candidate by candidate, tabbing quarterly and cumulative donations and running formulas to calculate remaining cash on hand.  And her turnaround is quick: Johnson has it down to the point she can pull this together within hours.

She emails the spreadsheets out, as she always has, and makes files available for free through her company’s website where close a thousand copies each file are downloaded — not counting those that get forwarded or distributed from there.

“There was one point when I had a computer problem, and it was 3 or 4 in the morning and I hadn’t posted the report yet,” Johnson said, “and I got messages saying, ‘hey, are you posting that or what?’ from folks who had been waiting up to read it.”

Johnson isn’t the only politico in town to enjoy collecting and analyzing such data, but she’s certainly among the most able, and has singlehandedly spared who-knows-how-many interns from hundreds of hours of number crunching. 

And with new campaign finance laws coming online, things will only pick up speed.

“It will be fast and furious next year due to the new laws. In 2014 reporting will start monthly and it is likely that larger amounts will be raised as well,” said Johnson, who will ramp up her own efforts accordingly.  “In 2014, I’ll start gathering and displaying both cumulative and monthly totals, and showing cash on hand, which the Division of Elections website doesn’t default to.”

Johnson’s career in politics follows a familiar path in and out of public and private roles and culminating with the founding of her company, On 3 Public Relations in 2008. 

She got her start in politics in 1986 with a degree in political science from the University of Central Florida, and began work that same year as legislative secretary to State Rep. Art Grindle. She worked for Bob Dole for President in ’87 and ’88, Bush/Quayle in ’88, and the Republican National Committee from then until 1991. 

Along the way, she worked with the Republican Governors Association, Republican National Committee, Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Department of State before beginning her first stint as a consultant in 1997, where her candidates included Frank Brogan for Florida Education Commissioner and Charlie Crist for the US Senate in 1998. 

She has also served as director of communications at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation and for Senate President John McKay before returning to the RPOF as director of campaign operations in 2002, and then returning to the public sector in 2003 as deputy chief of staff and communications director to the Florida Department of State.