PRESS RELEASE: Government Transparency Tool, Money Near Votes, Zooms in on Banking Industry Contribs given w/in 2 wks of Credit Card Bill Vote

MAPLight.org's Newest Government Transparency Tool Tracks Special Interest Funding to U.S. Congress Down to Day of Vote

BERKELEY, CA, August 26, 2009 - MAPLight.org, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research organization that shows the connection between money and politics, released ‘Money Near Votes,’ a new government transparency tool. This public, web-accessible data mashup combines information on campaign finance and congressional votes. Journalists, citizen activists and bloggers can easily track campaign contributions from special-interest groups given within a month, a week, or a day of each vote in Congress.

This new level of transparency hones in on the role special interests play in shaping public policy. “Never before have these ‘well-timed’ campaign donations been highlighted in such an exhaustive, easy-to-locate format,” said Daniel Newman, MAPLight.org’s executive director.

MAPLight.org’s Money Near Votes tool uses campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

For example, if you use the Money Near Votes tool to follow the money for the House vote on H.R. 627, the Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2009, you’ll see that the banking industry contributed $271,029 in campaign contributions to House legislators within two weeks of the House’s vote on this bill.

The Money Near Votes tool shows each legislator along with their campaign contributions and votes. For example, Rep. Addison Wilson (R-SC) voted ‘No’ on the Credit Card bill on April 30, 2009. He received $2,000 from the American Bankers Association on April 27, three days earlier, and $5,000 from the Credit Union National Association on April 29, the day before the vote. Both groups opposed the Credit Card bill.

Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2009: Money Received Within Two Weeks Before or After the Vote

MoneyNearVotes

See full list.

Contributions shown include contributions from companies, industry political action committees, and company employees.

“Companies would not invest in politicians’ election campaigns if it didn’t buy them influence or access,” said Newman.

Consumer-First Energy Act
In another example, last year the Senate failed to pass an energy bill that would have revoked $17 billion in tax breaks to oil producers and placed a 25 percent windfall profits tax on companies that did not invest in new energy sources. MAPLight.org’s Money Near Votes tool shows that Mary Landrieu (D-LA) voted ‘No’ on passage of the bill on June 10, 2008. She received $5,000 from Chesapeake Energy three days later, on June 13. Chesapeake Energy was among the firms potentially subject to the proposed windfall profits tax.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Senator Landrieu has received $711,644 from oil and gas interests since 1989.

“Never before has it been so easy to connect the dots between campaign contributions and legislators’ votes,” said Newman. What used to take days of manual research is now available at the click of a mouse.”

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.

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About MAPLight.org:

MAPLight.org is a nonpartisan, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization based in Berkeley, California. Our mission is to illuminate the connection between Money and Politics (MAP) using our groundbreaking database of campaign contributions and legislative votes. MAPLight.org combines data from the Federal Election Commission, the Center for Responsive Politics, GovTrack.us, the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP), the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission and other sources to better inform Americans and local and national media about the role of special-interest money in our political system. Hundreds of newspapers, TV stations, radio shows and online news sites have cited MAPLight.org's research, including CNN, the public radio show Marketplace, Harper's magazine, The Washington Post, Reuters, and The Wall Street Journal. MAPLight.org has received numerous awards including a Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism, a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and a Webby nomination for best Politics website. 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