Saturday, March 20, 2010 shines bright lights on politics, money and influence

The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C..Image via Wikipedia

This being a big weekend for health care vote on the Hill, I thought I'd post something about a group that's doing a lot to shine some bright lights on politics, money and influence in Washington, D.C., a groundbreaking public database, with offices located in Berkeley, California, illuminates the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes in unprecedented ways. Elected United States officials collect large sums of money to run their campaigns, and they often pay back campaign contributors with special access and favorable laws.

This common practice is contrary to the public interest, yet legal. makes money/vote connections transparent, to help citizens hold their legislators accountable.

Last week, during Sunshine Week, the group launched an all-new version of its website shining a light on money and influence in Congress. The new site here includes new tools to analyze (filter) legislator money/votes by:
  • Political party
  • State
  • Committee membership
  • How they voted
  • Voted with or against their donors
  • Any ad-hoc/custom group of legislators
Each amendment and each bill text now has its own support and opposition interests. This important change reflects that amendments often have different supporting and opposing interests than the bill being amended. This improvement will help surface more interesting findings with more specific connections between money, votes and policy outcomes. This change required extensive research and programming work including:
  • Created new internal data model to track any vote, not just “on-passage” final votes on bills—including amendment votes and voice votes.
  • Created information design and user interface to support working with this new data model.
  • Revised scripts to import Congressional legislative data from combines three data sets:
  • Bill texts and legislative voting records
  • Supporting and opposing interests for each bill
  • Campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics
, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is nonpartisan. Contributions to are tax-deductible as provided by law.

Click here to see a video tour.

Below is a brief newsclip about's project for my video of the week.

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