MapLight Wisconsin Launched, Revealing Money's Influence on WI Politics

MAPLIGHT.ORG WISCONSIN GIVES CITIZENS A FRONT ROW SEAT TO THE WI STATE LEGISLATURE

"MAPLight.org's transparency tools thrust sunlight into who's giving money to legislators, how legislators are voting, and how interest groups are aligning on proposed legislation."

-Andy Hall, Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

BERKELEY, CA, April 26, 2011--MAPLight.org, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the influence of money in politics, announces the launch of its Wisconsin website. The new public website provides journalists and citizens with transparency tools that show a simple dashboard view of money's role in the Wisconsin State Legislature.

"The goal of our Wisconsin site is to provide quick and easy access to information about campaign contributions, the interests of the groups that make them, and how the lawmakers that receive them vote, drawing back the curtain on how money influences legislation around the issues that people care most about," said Daniel Newman, MAPLight.org's executive director.

MAPLight.org engineers have combined, for the first time, three databases of information--campaign contributions, legislative votes, and interest group support and opposition--revealing the intersection between money and votes in the Wisconsin State Legislature.

"By centralizing data on contributions and votes, and combining that information with research on interest group bill support and opposition, MAPLight.org will provide Wisconsin's watchdogs with insights critical to the functioning of our democracy, in a fraction of the time it would take to otherwise assemble these facts from disparate sources," said Andy Hall, Executive Director of Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Under an agreement with MAPLight.org, the Wisconsin Center For Investigative Journalism will investigate money and politics issues and serve as a resource to news organizations in Wisconsin. The project is supported with a grant from the Open Society Institute.

MAPLight.org's data partner for campaign contributions is the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC). Mike McCabe, WDC's executive director, said of the partnership, "we're excited about this new partnership with MAPLight.org because it makes the information in our searchable database of campaign contributors even more useful and valuable by allowing citizens to more easily connect the dots between donations to Wisconsin lawmakers and public policy decisions made by those officials. This collaboration creates new opportunities for investigative journalism and citizen exploration of the impact of special interest money in Wisconsin politics."

MAPLight.org's Wisconsin Transparency Tools:

Legislative Data Tool - shows detailed records of bills, votes, legislators, and interest group support and opposition. Example 1: JR1AB 11 - An act relating to state finances, collective bargaining for public employees...

Campaign Finance Search Tool - shows campaign contributions given by any company, industry, or individual to any legislator in the Wisconsin State Legislature.
Example 1: Campaign contributions search - Campaign contributions to WI state legislators subject to recall attempts
Example 2: Interest group search - Milk & dairy producers contributions to WI state legislators

Money & Votes Tools - three databases of information have been combined to show patterns of influence never before possible to see:
-Total Contributions Tool - compares campaign contributions from interest groups that support a bill with contributions from interest groups that oppose it
-Contributions by Vote Tool
- correlates interest group contributions with how lawmakers vote
-Industry Bill Position Tool
- shows which companies, unions, trade associations and nonprofit groups support or oppose key bills
-Timeline of Contributions Tool - shows when campaign contributions were received in relation to a vote

Example 1:

MapL-WI-JR1AB_11_CollectiveBargaining

Custom research - offers free custom research for journalists, providing reliable, nonpartisan analysis of the influence of money in politics.

Methodology:

MAPLight.org Wisconsin currently includes campaign contributions made since January 1, 1993 to members of the Wisconsin State Legislature who have served since the 2009-2010 session (source: Wisconsin Democracy Campaign). MAPLight.org Wisconsin includes lawmaker, bill, and vote information dating back to the beginning of the 2009-2010 session (source: Wisconsin State Legislature, Sunlight Foundation's Open State Project). Legislation support and opposition data is a combination of lobbying disclosures from the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board and analysis conducted by the MAPLight.org research team. More information can be found here.

MAPLight.org's Wisconsin website was made possible by a grant from the Open Society Institute.

Producer/Editor's note: 
Daniel Newman,
MAPLight.org's executive director, is available for interviews and 15-minute tutorials of the Wisconsin and U.S. Congress website. Video of Mr. Newman can be found here: MSNBC - A Light in the Dark, How Money Aligns with Votes.

MapLight.org Background:
MAPLight.org provides journalists with quantitative data showing money's influence on our political system. Here are some examples of how journalists have used MAPLight.org's U.S. Congress, California, and Wisconsin data - Wisconsin State Journal, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, CNN.

MAPLight.org has received numerous awards including a Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism, a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists Northern California Chapter, and a Webby nomination for best "Politics" website. To learn more, please visit: MAPLight.org. Connect with MAPLight.org on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism:
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization, focuses upon government integrity and quality of life issues. The Center collaborates with the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where it is based, Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television and other mainstream and ethnic news organizations across the nation.

Since its launch in 2009, the Center has produced more than 30 major reports that have been picked up by more than 50 news organizations. It has received five Milwaukee Press Club awards and a NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Dane County citation, and its collaborative projects with the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity and other Investigative News Network members have received national acclaim.

The Center publicly acknowledges all of its donors, to increase the transparency — and protect the integrity — of its public-interest journalism. The Center is supported by foundations and individuals, including Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Foundation to Promote Open Society (a partner of Open Society Institute), McCormick Foundation and Ford Foundation. To learn more, please visit: WisconsinWatch.org. Connect with the Center on Twitter and Facebook.

About the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign:
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign is a nonprofit, nonpartisan political watchdog group dedicated to clean government. It advocates for a real democracy that allows the common good to prevail over narrow interests by reinforcing and protecting the values of honesty, fairness, transparency, accountability, citizen participation, competition, and respect for constitutional rights and the rule of law.

Media Contact:
Pamela Heisey
pamela@maplight.org
415.299.0898 cell
510.868.0894 office