Since 2009, MapLight's money and politics findings have reached 250 million people--46 million in the last year alone. We've generated 8,700 news stories illuminating money's impact on the important issues of the day in hundreds of news outlets, including:
Our media coverage numbers are based on the number of people who read, saw, or heard MapLight data, according to Nielsen TV ratings, Arbitron radio audience measurement, and analysis and estimates of web site and blog traffic. We used Cision media tracking services and other data sources to assemble these measurements.
In May 2013, MapLight spearheaded a successful campaign to win daily online downloads of campaign finance data from the California Secretary of State, making it easier for citizens and journalists to keep track of who is funding their elected officials. Previously, this data was only available by requesting a CD-ROM copy, which could take up to two weeks to receive in the mail.
When the California Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, initially denied the request, MapLight’s President and Co-Founder, Daniel G. Newman, met with her office and offered MapLight’s technical expertise. With MapLight’s track record of working with multiple complex data sets to reveal useful information to the public, we knew our data team could build an automated, low-cost fix to surmount any concerns.
Days after the meeting, the Secretary of State’s office agreed to MapLight’s request, reversing their earlier denial: the state’s entire campaign finance database is now available for download as a single data file. On August 28, 2013, we released a new search tool, MapLight Power Search, allowing journalists and citizens to easily search the newly released bulk data to find campaign contributions dating back to 2001.
MapLight Wins Public Access to Lawmakers' Votes Database
In June 2009, MapLight and the First Amendment Coalition settled their freedom of information lawsuit against the Office of Legislative Counsel of California, winning public access to California’s state database of how lawmakers vote. Learn more about this momentous transparency victory here.
Homeowner Bill of Rights
MapLight data fueled the online organizing network Courage Campaign’s “Foreclosure Flashlight,” an advocacy webpage promoting a package of legislation instituting significant mortgage and foreclosure reforms known as the Homeowner Bill of Rights, which was signed into California law last year. The Foreclosure Flashlight spotlighted the 19 members of the California Assembly and Senate Banking Committees who would cast the first votes on the legislation, connecting their mortgage industry campaign contributions and votes on past homeowner protection bills with the number of foreclosures in their home counties, and urged citizens to contact their legislators.
The Homeowner Bill of Rights was designed to prevent widespread banking abuses and was supported by more than 70 organizations, including large numbers of consumer groups and realtors. It was opposed by a much smaller coalition: mortgage bankers and the California Chamber of Commerce. Still, the legislation faced a narrow path to victory—similar bills had been introduced and died over the course of four years.
Courage Campaign Chairperson Rick Jacobs identified the key factors that turned the tide, the Foreclosure Flashlight prominent among them:
The passage of the Homeowner Bill of Rights led to a dramatic decrease in foreclosure filings in California, bringing down the national average. According to a February article in Mortgage News Daily:
California Bill to Raise Borrowing Cap for Payday Lenders
In 2011, California Assemblymember Charles Calderon introduced a bill that would raise the borrowing cap for payday lenders from $300 to $500. While some states have enacted interest rate caps or other consumer protections, payday lenders in California can legally charge effective annual interests rates of over 400%, and consumers groups warned that raising the loan cap would trap more borrowers in cycles of debt.
Before the bill even made it to the Assembly floor, MapLight released a report highlighting the money behind the bill: Calderon, the bill’s sponsor, received more money from the payday loan industry than any other assemblymember. Furthermore, his brother, state Senator Ron Calderon, was the top recipient among all California legislators.
Our report garnered press coverage in the Sacramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and other outlets, reaching 1.4 million people via 40 articles and editorials calling for the bill to be voted down. The bill never became law.
The Fair Copyright and Research Works Act
In March 2009, copyright activist Lawrence Lessig published an article on the Huffington Post on the contributions behind the Fair Copyright and Research Works Act. If passed, the bill would have reversed the National Institutes of Health’s public access policy, which ensures that the public has access to publicly-funded research by requiring published articles, manuscripts, and other products created with NIH research funds to be made available on the publicly accessible PubMed Central. The bill was championed by the publishing industry, which has a financial interest in restricting access to this information, and was opposed by 33 U.S. Nobel laureates in science, 46 law professors, the American Library Association, the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, and many others.
Lessig’s article cited MapLight’s findings showing that sponsors of the bill received twice as much money from the publishing industry as non-sponsoring committee members and claimed that Representative John Conyers (D-MI), the bill’s lead sponsor, was being influenced by the publishing industry. With MapLight’s data as the newsworthy “hook,” the post went on to ask readers to sign on to a campaign and call their member of Congress and John Conyers to share their thoughts.
The article set off a wave of critical blog posts and phone calls to Rep. Conyers’ office, resulting in a response from Rep. Conyers on the Huffington Post and more than 100 blog posts that cited MapLight’s report. Following this response, the bill never moved forward.
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