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Site of Day: Maplight

tmoody's picture
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With the election season kicking off full strength. It is really is going to be tough to make a good decision on who to vote for based off short sound bites. As they say talk is cheap, especially when it comes to politicians. That is where the Site of Day comes in. The site is called Maplight.org.

MAPLight.org brings together campaign contributions and how legislators vote, providing an unprecedented window into the connections between money and politics. We currently cover the California Legislature and U.S. Congress.

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

The Database

MAPLight.org 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

Combining this data makes visible key information that could never before be determined easily. For example:
* Contributions given by interests supporting and opposing each bill
* Average donations given to legislators voting “Yes” and “No” on each bill
* Timeline of contributions and votes for each bill, graphically identifying when legislators received large
donations before or after their vote.

Nonprofit and Nonpartisan
MAPLight.org operates as a project of TakeBackCA.org, a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

So basically you can see what your congressmen is voting on and if he or she is keeping their campaign promises. I started to play around with the site. I have to say it is pretty cool, but really scarry. Below are some examples I pulled based ooff the bill H.R. 5: College Student Relief Act of 2007.

Bill

You also see which lobbyist were involved with the bill and whether they were for it or against by their contributions. For example the Commercial Bank and holdings lobbies were against the bill while Minority, and Teacher lobbies were for the bill. After I selceted the bill, I selected the votes tab which show the votes and how each congressmen voted on this bill. If you pick a congressman from the list it will also show what the lobbiest gave to the congressman. For this exampl, I picked congressman Dennis Hastert a repbulican, and John Murtha a democrat.

Maplight Hastert

As you can see, Hastert voted no on this bill, The numbers in red represent lobbyists that did not want the bill and the amount they gave to Hastert. So the Commercial banks gave over $88,000. While the numbers in green represent the lobbyist who wanted the bill and the amount they gave. The Public School Teachers lobbyist gave almost $7,000. So it seems the congressman voted based on who gave the most. So the perception is that Hastert vote was bought.

Here is John Murtha's record:

Murtha Maplight

Murth voted yes for the bill (Good for him). The funny thing he got more money from the Bank lobbyists a little over $15,000 compared to the Teacher lobbyists and yet he still voted yes for the bill. The perception here is that you can't buy Murtha's vote. Of course there is more to this, right?

Why don't you all give it a shot and let me know if you find anything else interesting. They are other sites that you can find out the your politician's voting records. Here is a list:

http://www.govtrack.us/

http://www.opencongress.org

http://www.opensecrets.org