I recently made contact with www.followthemoney.org a non-partisan website that has been audited by the RAND corporation. This website is the number one site for finding out who is lobbying your politicians. In the old days citizens would be very limited to the access of who is lobbying. Now with www.followthemoney.org we have a one stop shop to find out which politicians are getting the money and from who. The usefulness of this site is immeasurable. Did your Senator vote for health care reform? You can find out why. Who paid him to vote that way? The possibilities are endless.
Here is some of the information provided to me by Executive Director Edwin Bender of www.followthemoney.org. “First, the Institute compiles the donor information filed by more than 16,000 candidates and committees with state disclosure officials every two-year election cycle. From the 100,000 individual reports, we build a database of more than 3 million records that totals more than $3 billion. It represents all donors to state legislative, statewide and other candidates, to state political party committees as well as ballot measure committees. Where we can’t get electronic data, we input it from PDF or paper reports. This unique database has been used by conservative and liberal groups alike to make points about the role of campaign finances in the public-policy processes at the state level.”
That is a wealth of information. Information is power. As a voter I can look to see who is giving money to my Congress person and see how that influences’ his vote. I asked Mr. Bender how this information could and should be used in a “perfect world”. He stated, “In our perfect world, voters would use the information we make available about candidates on both sides of the political aisle to inform their votes come election time. Most candidates run on three or four “hot button” issues, yet are required to make decisions about hundreds or thousands of issues. Our data is a key indicator of how they will vote on those issues, as donor-issue-to-vote correlations are in the high 80 percentile. (Political party correlations are lower, in the mid-70s.)”
The old saying that “he who pays the piper calls the tune” is now more true than ever as lobbyists have taken over Congress on the Federal and State level. We know that family members of Congress are paid lobbyists. With this information we can see if their lobbying firm paid to get their agenda through. This website opens up the transparency of government that we all strive for, whether the politicians like it or not. The piper may play the tune but now we can read the sheet music.
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