Category Archives: Politics

Industries Storm States Over Climate Change

Source: Tyler Evilsizer, National Institute on Money in State Politics, March 18, 2009

From the press release:
As the climate change debate heats up in the states, those with a keen interest in the issue have turned up the pressure to make sure their voices are heard in the lawmaking process. Between 2003 and 2007, energy-related companies contributed $151 million to state-level politics; chambers of commerce, manufacturers and pro-business organizations gave an additional $31.4 million. In sharp contrast, environmental organizations and alternative energy companies contributed only $26 million.

These numbers, from a study released by FollowTheMoney.org, show that members of energy and manufacturing coalitions gave 80 percent of their donations to incumbent lawmakers. Coalition members heavily favored Republicans, giving them 62 percent of their donations. Coalition donors were very targeted, giving more than seven times the amount of money to those who went on to win their elections than they gave to candidates who lost. Of further interest is that sixty percent of their contributions went to only six states: California, Illinois, Florida, Texas, Alabama and Virginia.

Energy and manufacturing coalitions didn’t stop after the elections. They employed 7,538 lobbyists to influence legislation at the state level; almost half hired specifically by energy and natural resource companies.

Environmental and alternative energy groups did not sit idly by on the sidelines during this same five-year period. Of the $26 million they gave in political contributions, $22 million focused on influencing the outcome of ballot initiatives. These groups distributed their candidate donations more evenly, giving 38 percent to incumbents, 28 percent to challengers, and 34 percent to candidates in open seat contests. They, too, were effective in their giving, with two-thirds of their money going to winning candidates.

Apps for America Winners

Source: Sunlight Foundation, April 20, 2009

LocalPolitics.in
Enter your zip code and see your local Congress People along with their financial information, their contact information, their voting records, and a voting comparison chart of your senators. The app also displays the top ten presidential contributors for your zip code and the top ten recipients of government spending in your zip code.

Expendicus
allows users to view the independent expenditures made in a specific congressional race, in support of or opposition to an individual candidate, or commissioned by a particular PAC.

Call Congress

When’s the last time you talked to your Senator or Representative’s office? Is there an issue you care about that Congress isn’t addressing? Do you have a question about someone’s position on an issue? You need to Call Congress. When you use Call Congress to contact a Congressperson, a recording of the call is automatically posted online for everyone to hear. Don’t want the call to be recorded? You can still use the site to get contact info for your Senators and Representative.

Yeas & Nays
Yeas & Nays is a browser plug-in that transforms any webpage into a means for contacting Congressional representatives

Among the entries:
District-by-District Organizing Tool
A social networking framework for citizen organizing by congressional district.

The Petition Archives

The Petitions Archives allows people to publish and preserve the personal email petitions they send public figures.

FlashGraffer
FlashGraffer presents a graphical view of campaign contributions by industries to members of 36 House and Senate committees (110th Congress). Several interactive features let the user select different committees and highlight contributions patterns.

Where the Money Goes
Where the Money Goes makes it easier to visualize the contributions that political action committees (PACs) make to each other, and to your members of Congress.

Filibusted

Source: Fillibusted, 2009

The arcane details of what goes on in the U.S. Senate are recorded on a daily basis by GovTrack, then put into a machine-readable format so it can be consumed by others.

Every night, Filibusted checks to see what the Senate voted on that day. If there were any cloture votes, it finds out all it can about them — any associated bills and amendments, who voted which way, and so on — and stores it.

OpenSecrets.org Goes OpenData

Source: Center for Responsive Politics, Press release, April 13, 2009

Award-winning website from the Center for Responsive Politics now provides 20 years of downloadable money-in-politics data–for free.

Politicians, prepare yourselves. Lobbyists, look out. Today the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics is putting 200 million data records from the watchdog group’s archive directly into the hands of citizens, activists, journalists and anyone else interested in following the money in U.S. politics.

For the first time in CRP’s 26-year history, the nonprofit research group’s most popular data archives are fully and freely downloadable for non-commercial purposes from the Center’s website, OpenSecrets.org–a four-time Webby winner for best politics site online. OpenSecrets.org will remain the go-to independent source for most users interested in tracking money’s political influence and, in fact, the site has some new general-interest features as of today.

The following data sets, along with a user guide, resource tables and other documentation, are now available in CSV format (comma-separated values, for easy importing) through OpenSecrets.org’s Action Center:
* CAMPAIGN FINANCE
* LOBBYING
* PERSONAL FINANCES
* 527 ORGANIZATIONS

Marxism as a Capitalist Tool

Source: David Ellerman, University of California at Riverside, February 2009

From the abstract:
Just as the two sides in the Cold War agreed that Western Capitalism and Soviet Communism were “the” two alternatives, so the two sides in the intellectual Great Debate agreed on a common framing of questions with the defenders of capitalism taking one side and Marxists taking the other side of the questions. From the viewpoint of economic democracy (e.g., a labor-managed market economy), this late Great Debate between capitalism and socialism was as misframed as would be an antebellum ‘Great Debate’ between the private or public ownership of slaves. Even though the Great Debate between capitalism and socialism is now in the dustbin of intellectual history, Marxism still plays an important role in sustaining the misframing of the questions so that the defenders of the present employment system do not have to face the real questions that separate that system from a system of economic democracy. In that sense, Marxism has become the ultimate capitalist tool.

MAPLight.org

Source: MAPLight.org, 2009

MAPLight.org, a groundbreaking public database, illuminates the connection between campaign donations and legislative votes in unprecedented ways. Elected officials collect large sums of money to run their campaigns, and they often pay back campaign contributors with special access and favorable laws.

This common practice is contrary to the public interest, yet legal. MAPLight.org makes money/vote connections transparent, to help citizens hold their legislators accountable.

The Database

MAPLight.org combines three data sets:

* Bill texts and legislative voting records
* Supporting and opposing interests for each bill
* Campaign contribution data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics

Combining this data makes visible key information that could never before be determined easily. For example:

* Contributions given by interests supporting and opposing each bill
* Average donations given to legislators voting Yes and No on each bill
* Timeline of contributions and votes for each bill, graphically identifying when legislators received large donations before or after their vote.

Do Community-Based Voter Mobilization Campaigns Work Even in Battleground States? Evaluating the Effectiveness Of MoveOn’s 2004 Outreach Campaign

Source: Joel A. Middleton and Donald P. Green, Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Vol. 3, 2008

From the abstract:
One of the hallmarks of the 2004 presidential election was the unusual emphasis on face-to-face voter mobilization, particularly face-to-face mobilization conducted within neighborhoods or social networks. Unlike previous studies of face-to-face voter mobilization, which have focused largely on nonpartisan campaigns conducted during midterm or local elections, this study assesses the effects of a campaign organized by MoveOn.org, an organization that allied itself with the Democratic Party in 2004 to aid presidential candidate John Kerry. A regression discontinuity analysis of 46,277 voters from 13 swing states demonstrates that neighbor-to-neighbor mobilization substantially increased turnout among target voters during the 2004 presidential election. Contact with MoveOn volunteers increased turnout by approximately nine percentage-points. This finding corroborates experimental findings showing the effectiveness of door-to-door canvassing but contradicts results suggesting that such mobilization is ineffective in the context of high-salience elections.

To “Re-Hatch” Public Employees or Not? An Ethical Analysis of the Relaxation of Restrictions on Political Activities in Civil Service

Source: James S. Bowman and Jonathan P. West, Public Administration Review, Vol. 69 no. 1, January/February 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study examines the ethical content of legislation regulating the political activities of civil servants. The analysis is done using the “ethics triangle,” a tool that encompasses the interdependence of results-based utilitarian ethics, rule-based duty ethics, and virtue-based character ethics. The discussion begins with the importance of the problem, followed by its evolution and current status. After describing the methodology, the central section investigates the values at stake. The conclusion provides a synthesis of the findings, explores the implications of the study, and attempts to answer the question posed in the title of the paper.