Category Archives: Elected Officials

Friends in High Places

Source: Lauren Cohen, Christopher J. Malloy, NBER Working Paper No. w16437, October 2010
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In this paper we demonstrate that personal connections amongst politicians, and between politicians and firms, have a significant impact on the voting behavior of U.S. politicians. We exploit a unique database linking politicians to other politicians, and linking politicians to firms, and find both channels to be influential. Networks based on alumni connections between politicians, as well as common seat locations on the chamber floor, are consistent predictors of voting behavior. For the former, we estimate sharp measures that control for common characteristics of the network, as well as heterogeneous impacts of a common network characteristic across votes. For common seat locations, we identify a set of plausibly exogenously assigned seats (e.g., Freshman Senators), and find a strong impact of seat location networks on voting. Further, we show that connections between firms and politicians influence Congressional votes on bills that affect these firms. These network effects are stronger for more tightly linked networks, and at times when votes are most valuable.

Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors: 2010

Source: Chris Edwards, Cato Institute, Policy Analysis no. 668, September 30, 2010

From the summary:
State governments have had to make tough budget choices in recent years. Tax revenues have stagnated as a result of the poor economy, and that has prompted governors to take a variety of fiscal actions to close large budget gaps. Some governors have cut spending to balance their budgets, while others have pursued large tax increases.

That is the backdrop to this 10th biennial fiscal report card of the governors, which examines state budget actions since 2008. It uses statistical data to grade the governors on their taxing and spending records — governors who have cut taxes and spending the most receive the highest grades, while those who have increased taxes and spending the most receive the lowest grades.

Influence Explorer

Source: Sunlight Foundation, 2010

Influence Explorer uses disclosure data to identify the largest donors to all federal and state politicians, PACs and political parties and the biggest spenders on Washington lobbyists.

If you can’t find the organization or individual you’re looking for here, try searching TransparencyData.com.

New Politics of Judicial Elections 2000-2009: Decade of Change

Source: James Sample, Adam Skaggs, Jonathan Blitzer, Linda Casey, Justice at Stake Campaign, the Brennan Center, and the National Institute on Money in State Politics, August 2010

From the summary:
State judicial elections have been transformed during the past decade. The story of America’s 2000-2009 high court contests–tens of millions of dollars raised by candidates from parties who may appear before them, millions more poured in by interest groups, nasty and misleading ads, and pressure on judges to signal courtroom rulings on the campaign trail–has become the new normal.

For more than a decade, partisans and special interests of all stripes have been growing more organized in their efforts to use elections to tilt the scales of justice their way. Many Americans have come to fear that justice is for sale. Unlike previous editions, which covered only the most recent election cycle, this fifth edition of the “New Politics of Judicial Elections” looks at the 2000-2009 decade as a whole. By tallying the numbers and “connecting the dots” among key players over the last five election cycles, this report offers a broad portrait of a grave and growing challenge to the impartiality of our nation’s courts. These trends include:

– The explosion in judicial campaign spending, much of it poured in by “super spender” organizations seeking to sway the courts
– The parallel surge of nasty and costly TV ads as a prerequisite to gaining a state Supreme Court seat
– The emergence of secretive state and national campaigns to tilt state Supreme Court elections
– Litigation about judicial campaigns, some of which could boost special-interest pressure on judges
– Growing public concern about the threat to fair and impartial justice–and support for meaningful reforms.

Federal UI Extension Votes and Impact on the States

Source: National Employment Law Project, July 2010

From the press release:
New analysis released today by the National Employment Law Project lists every U.S. Senator and Representative who voted against extending unemployment benefits last month and the cost of that opposition to their states – both in terms of the thousands of unemployed workers who continue to be cut off benefits every week, and the millions in economic stimulus that each state is missing out on as a result of the lapsed programs….Yet another poll finds overwhelming support for extension of unemployment benefits to help the unemployed, despite deficit concerns.

2009 Poverty Scorecard Grades

Source: Shriver Center, 2010

From the summary:
As millions lose their jobs, homes, and health insurance during this recession, they look to Congress to come through and help them in their time of need. But does it? Are the representatives in Washington really looking out for the interests of the people who were laid off by a plant closing, lost their health insurance, or face crushing debt as a result of a medical emergency? The 2009 Poverty Scorecard grades the performance of each member of Congress on the most important poverty-related issues that came to a vote in 2009.

Searchable Database of House Expenditure Reports

Source: Sunlight Foundation, December 2009

On November 30, 2009, the US House of Representatives released the quarterly Statement of Disbursements online for the first time. Since the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer posted these in PDF format, Sunlight created a searchable database of each House member’s expenditures. This database contains information that is a subset of the information provided in the PDFs.

The first two databases below present the expenditures first in summary format and then in a more detailed itemized view. (This mimics how the House published the expenditures.)

How Leadership PAC Money Is Spent

Source: Mike Webb, ProPublica, September 25, 2009

Tonight, in a story we did with the Brian Ross Investigative Unit for ABC News’ World News With Charles Gibson, the network is looking at how members of Congress actually use money from their Leadership PACs. (See their slideshow.) An in-depth version of this story will come this weekend. Leadership Political Action Committees are the second-largest source of political money for sitting members of Congress. Check out our database to see exactly what your representatives are spending their Leadership PAC money on. And be sure to come back this weekend to read the full story.