PRESS RELEASE: MAPLight.org Launches a 'Committee Tool' to Reveal the River of Money that Flows Through Key Bills in Congressional Committees

Web 2.0 Government Transparency Tool Reveals Campaign Contributions Given To All Committee Members, Saves Journalists and Citizen Activists Hours of Research

BERKELEY, CA, September 16, 2008 - Congressional Committees play a primary role in our political process—developing legislation and performing oversight. These legislative bodies have proven to be effective targets for big money interests. MAPLight.org's 'Committee Tool' provides a much needed window into special interest influence, revealing campaign contributions received by each Committee member from special interest groups for key bills placed before every Congressional Committee. This new government transparency tool provides journalists and active citizens with hard data to identify when big money interests seek to use campaign contributions to gain access and influence legislation while it is in Committee.

"This new level of government transparency hones in on the role big-money interests play in our political process," said Daniel Newman, MAPLight.org's executive director. "Who is more likely to get the ear of Committee members: a nuclear waste processing company, which gives hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, or a concerned citizen in Utah worried about 20,000 tons of radioactive waste being dumped in their state? A giant credit card company, which gives millions of dollars in campaign contributions, or a college student moonlighting to pay down credit card debt?

Here are two 'SPOTLIGHT' examples showing how the 'Committee Tool' works:

SPOTLIGHT on H.R. 5244, Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2008, in the House Committee on Financial Services
H.R. 5244 would limit the rights of banks to arbitrarily increase interest rates on credit cards and would place restrictions on misleading advertising. This bill has been stuck in the House Committee on Financial Services since February 7, 2008. MAPLight.org's 'Committee Tool' reveals special interest money given to each member of this Committee. Commercial banks, credit agencies and other financial industries opposing this bill have given $341,199 to Representative Barney Frank (D, MA-4), Chair of this Committee and $465,065 to Representative Spencer Bachus (R, AL-6), the Committees' Ranking Member. Consumer groups, small business groups and other groups supporting the bill have given significantly less.

HR5244

(Contribution data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, www.opensecrets.org.)
For a full list of contributions, and the history and status of H.R. 5632, visit: MAPLight.org Committee Tool H.R. 5244.

SPOTLIGHT on H.R. 5632, which would prohibit importation of radioactive waste, in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce

H.R. 5632 would effectively prohibit the importation of radioactive waste into the United States. Energy Solutions, a nuclear waste management company, is currently seeking a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to import 20,000 tons of radioactive waste from Italy. Currently the bill has been stuck in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and House Committee on Ways and Means since it was introduced on March 13, 2008. MAPLight.org's 'Committee Tool' reveals special interest money given to each member of these Committees. The nuclear plant construction, equipment & services industry, which is trying to block passage of the bill, has given John Dingell (D, MI-15), Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, $45,250. Environmental policy groups, which support passage of this bill, have given significantly less, just $3,760 to Dingell.

HR5632

(Contribution data provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, www.opensecrets.org.)
For a full list of contributions, and the history and status of H.R. 5632, visit: MAPLight.org Committee Tool_H.R. 5632.

MAPlight.org believes including data about supporters' and opponents' campaign contributions in news stories about legislative voting outcomes adds a layer of depth and realism to media coverage.

MAPLight.org’s research department reveals how contributions correlate with legislation so that citizens have key information needed to draw their own conclusions about how campaign contributions affect policy. Campaign contributions are only one factor affecting legislator behavior. The correlations we highlight between industry and union giving and legislative outcomes do not show that one caused the other, and we do not make this claim. We do make the claim, however, that campaign contributions bias our legislative system. Simply put, candidates who take positions contrary to industry interests are unlikely to receive industry funds and thus have fewer resources for their election campaigns than those whose votes favor industry interests.

About MAPLight.org:

MAPLight.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization based in Berkeley, California. Its search engine at MAPLight.org illuminates the connection between Money And Politics (MAP) via a database of campaign contributions and legislative outcomes. Data sources include: GovTrack.us; Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org); Federal Election Commission (FEC); and National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP). Support and opposition data is obtained through testimony at public hearings, proprietary news databases and public statements on the websites of trade associations and other groups. To learn more visit MAPLight.org. If our work has been helpful to you, please consider supporting us.

Media Contact

Pamela Behrsin
Communications
Office: (510) 868-0894
pamela@maplight.org