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Mo' money, mo' legislation
August 15, 2007 10:19 AM   Subscribe

Is there a link between donations given and bills passed? MAPLight.org aims to help you find out, giving you the ability to compare contributions with how legislators voted. [Via]
posted by djgh (38 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Related post, previously.
posted by djgh at 10:22 AM on August 15, 2007


Wait, someone needed to put together a rounded-cornery web 2.0-ish site just to demonstrate a connection between campaign contributions and legislation?
posted by dersins at 10:23 AM on August 15, 2007


Clinton has received almost half again as much as the next recipient from the "Retired" industry?

And given how much Inhofe denies climate change, I wonder what those receiving more than him having been up to.

Neat website.
posted by DU at 10:29 AM on August 15, 2007


Also, my Congressdude: BEHOLDEN TO NO MAN!
posted by DU at 10:31 AM on August 15, 2007


Of course there's a link. The question is whether legislators decide how to vote based on contributions; or corporations decide how to contribute based on how a politician is likely to vote. It's a chicken and egg thing.
posted by rocket88 at 10:32 AM on August 15, 2007


I still believe that politicians' suits should be emblazoned with the logos of their corporate sponsors, like NASCAR racers.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:34 AM on August 15, 2007 [21 favorites]


dersins; everyone has an innate understanding of the general relationship between money and politics, but this really is a fantastic tool. The implementation is half the trick, of course. The data has always been floating around, but take a look at the demo video to really understand the power of this specific way of organizing it.
posted by odinsdream at 10:36 AM on August 15, 2007


Faint of Butt, they would probably need to wear really big suits.
posted by chunking express at 10:44 AM on August 15, 2007


The question is whether legislators decide how to vote based on contributions; or corporations decide how to contribute based on how a politician is likely to vote.

The second is only slightly less odious than the first. Why do organizations get to contribute at all? It just means that CEOs get two votes (at a minimum).
posted by DU at 10:45 AM on August 15, 2007


I like the idea but that is the WORST web 2.0 interface ever. I just can't pull any information out of it. I couldn't even find any specific "X Company gave money to Y senator who voted their way on Z Law" without watching a six minute video, and even then it's still too clunky for me to tolerate.

I mean, there's at least three levels of tabs on some pages. I still can't figure out how to, given a politician, find out what bills they were bribed to pass or anything like that.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:54 AM on August 15, 2007


Wow. I'm going to be geeking out on this for days.
posted by The World Famous at 11:02 AM on August 15, 2007


It's funny that it doesn't matter beyond a certain point. Very few lobbies/donors illustrate this better than the Anti-Drug war groups. I'm not sure that even an infinite supply of funds could buy enough votes to end the drug war.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 11:20 AM on August 15, 2007


"I still believe that politicians' suits should be emblazoned with the logos of their corporate sponsors, like NASCAR racers."

I think you just came up with an even BETTER idea for a similar website!
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 11:35 AM on August 15, 2007


chunking express: "Faint of Butt, they would probably need to wear really big suits."

Or capes.
posted by Drexen at 11:35 AM on August 15, 2007


I wouldn't call that "funny", I'd call it "hopeful". Right or wrong, people support the war on drugs. And politicians follow the will of the people despite the money.
posted by DU at 11:36 AM on August 15, 2007


Can someone please explain to me how Clergy can be listed on this page? How can that be done without losing their tax exemption?
posted by Mr_Zero at 11:37 AM on August 15, 2007


I'd be more interested in seeing a tool that correlated representative's staffer's employment before and after their work for the people and their congress or senate critter's votes.
posted by srboisvert at 11:42 AM on August 15, 2007


Can someone please explain to me how Clergy can be listed on this page? How can that be done without losing their tax exemption?

Separation of Church and State is sort of like the Flag Code. It's one of those funny little archaisms of our government that every American has heard of, but no one is really expected to abide by.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 11:44 AM on August 15, 2007


you think good government is free?
posted by bruce at 11:49 AM on August 15, 2007


Can someone please explain to me how Clergy can be listed on this page? How can that be done without losing their tax exemption?

And can someone please explain to me how the top recipient of donations from Clergy is Hillary Clinton?
posted by The World Famous at 11:57 AM on August 15, 2007


I was checking out the bills supported by consumer groups. Did they become law? In order: no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Not one pro-consumer bill, according to the site. On the other hand, 2 out of 8 anti-consumer bills became law.
posted by hodyoaten at 12:01 PM on August 15, 2007


The idea of this site is really cool, but there are some pretty glaring omissions, especially with IP/copy protection. Maybe it's just a function of how far back the records go, but it still leads to a rather incomplete picture.

For instance, there is only one bill linked to the "Recorded Music Production" interest group, the Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship Act. But I guarantee that interest group promoted the Copyright Royalty and Distribution Reform Act, which led to the creation of the Copyright Royalty Board whose recent up-ratcheting of streaming Internet radio royalties led to the recent controversy, Internet Radio Day of Silence, and so on.

Or, bizarrely, the only bill associated with "Motion Picture Production and Distribution" is the Udall-Eisenhower Arctic Wilderness Act, which seems completely unrelated to motion picture production and distribution. Meanwhile, MPAA lobbyists have been diehard in favor of such odious legislation as the Digital Transition Content Security Act, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and FFS the Copyright Term Extension Act that served to reinforce that, given enough money by those who produce media, Congress will continue extending the copyright term indefinitely so that precious Mickey Mouse never falls into the public domain.

Anyway, this type of money< -->bill quid pro quo data is vital and I'm glad that someone is tracking it and making it public. I only wish it were more comprehensive, so that the true scope of the problem would be more evident.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 12:05 PM on August 15, 2007


Can someone please explain to me how Clergy can be listed on this page? How can that be done without losing their tax exemption?
And can someone please explain to me how the top recipient of donations from Clergy is Hillary Clinton?


I think I can answer both questions:
(1) Just as Bill Gates can personally contribute to a candidate without it being a "Microsoft donation", so too, can your local Methodist minister contribute without it being "the Methodists" contributing. Although I suspect it may be more difficult for Catholic priests, considering their "vow of poverty" (if they're still doing that these days).
(2) As for Clerics supporting Ms. Clinton, please remember that most "right-wing reverends" don't contribute dollars to candidates, they directly deliver votes. (And for that, many of them receive payment from political sources).
posted by wendell at 12:15 PM on August 15, 2007


I suspect that if, for the purposes of a hypothetical exercise, someone were to try to come up with the most corruptible system of passing laws, it would look a lot like ours.

I wish there were some way to remove the campaign finance aspect to someone running for office, because then we could drive a nice big stake into the heart of lobbyists, but any system like that might lead to someone who isn't rich getting into office.

And lord knows we can't have that.
posted by quin at 12:36 PM on August 15, 2007


Can someone please explain to me how Clergy can be listed on this page? How can that be done without losing their tax exemption?

Bob, who is a preacher, can give up to $4600 to any candidate he wishes (subject to an overall limit), because Bob has the same right to make political contributions as any other citizen. Also, Bob's wife can make the same contribution, and hers will also be labeled as being from clergy.

The dirty secret of opensecrets and similar groups is that almost all contributions that are listed as being from an industry aren't. The overwhelming majority of contributions from, any given industry are simply contributions from people who happen to work in that industry, or whose spouse happens to work in that industry.

This is also how sources can report that the US State Department makes contributions. It doesn't. People who work there do, because they have the same right to do so as anybody else.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:50 PM on August 15, 2007


quin: I read somewhere (and it was really interesting, so it may well have been a link on MeFi) that it's the fact that TV is now the dominant way of getting people elected causing this. i.e., the only way you're seen is if you advertise on TV. Therefore, politicians need cash for adverts.

A simple solution might be to enact a law saying that all TV channels have to put on X amounts of adverts for candidates for free, with some specifics to stop the channel putting favored candidate on at prime-time, and non-favored candidate's ad on at 2am.
posted by djgh at 1:00 PM on August 15, 2007


"I still believe that politicians' suits should be emblazoned with the logos of their corporate sponsors, like NASCAR racers."

You'd like Idiocracy
Hell, I thought it was a documentary.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:27 PM on August 15, 2007


You'd like Idiocracy
Hell, I thought it was a documentary.


Well, at least in my case I thought I'd like that movie. But unfortunately while watching it I learned I also like looking at my watch and wondering when the movie was going to end...
posted by inigo2 at 1:54 PM on August 15, 2007


Josh Marshall has an interesting story today about Alaska congressman Don Young who slipped in an earmark to put in a freeway interchange for a real estate developer in Florida who gave him a $40,000 fund raiser.

This is pretty run of the mill graft, but the interesting part is that he slipped the earmark into the bill after it had been passed by both houses of congress and before it was signed by the president. One would think this is constitutionally impossible, but somehow he managed to do it.
posted by JackFlash at 2:03 PM on August 15, 2007


This is pretty run of the mill graft, but the interesting part is that he slipped the earmark into the bill after it had been passed by both houses of congress and before it was signed by the president. One would think this is constitutionally impossible, but somehow he managed to do it.

A lot can change in conference committee.
posted by The World Famous at 3:01 PM on August 15, 2007


A lot can change in conference committee.

Sorry, this was after the conference committee and after the conference report amendments were voted by both houses. At that point both houses have voted on the identical bill as required by the constitution. Then it was changed. That is unprecedented. No changes are permitted (other than typographical errors) after both houses have voted on a conference bill.
posted by JackFlash at 3:06 PM on August 15, 2007


DU writes "Why do organizations get to contribute at all?"

Because people can (freedom of speech, y'know?), and the founding fathers loved corporations so much they, in their infinite wisdom, gave them the same rights as a person.

Pay no attention to the fact that corporations have no conscience and no motivation beyond pure greed. Oh, and they're immortal.
posted by mullingitover at 3:27 PM on August 15, 2007


Sorry, this was after the conference committee and after the conference report amendments were voted by both houses.

Well I'll be.
posted by The World Famous at 3:31 PM on August 15, 2007


A simple solution might be to enact a law saying that all TV channels have to put on X amounts of adverts for candidates for free, with some specifics to stop the channel putting favored candidate on at prime-time, and non-favored candidate's ad on at 2am.
posted by djgh at 4:00 PM on August 15


Canada does this, or at least they do it for radio. Incumbents get more minutes, but otherwise the rules are pretty even-handed. I remember debating at the college radio station I used to work at, whether or not we'd accept ads (if you accept from anybody you have to accept from everybody, and people didn't want to be forced to air ads for Reform candidates). I can't remember what we decided but I loved finding out about this broadcasting requirement.
posted by joannemerriam at 3:58 PM on August 15, 2007


Well I'll be.

Me too. If you watch the video, you'll see how the language was changed from a general earmark for widening Florida highways to a specific earmark benefiting Young's contributor immediately before sending it to the president and never voted upon. The Repubs really do believe that the US constitution and rule of law are merely suggestions.
posted by JackFlash at 4:00 PM on August 15, 2007


“But unfortunately while watching it I learned I also like looking at my watch and wondering when the movie was going to end”

And yet again, art imitates/anticipates life.

I’d honestly like to see a candidate, or incumbent, anyone really, come out and say: “Sure, Tyson gave me ‘X’ amount of money for my campaign, but that has nothing to do with the bill I pushed. I just really think environmental law on allowable organic chicken parts per gallon in drinking water ought to be higher - on principle.”

Either something convinces you of it’s rectitude, or you’re pimping/whoring for money. Certainly one can rationalize job growth or some such, but very rarely will any politician allow their thinking on something to be replicated such that you could follow it and agree or disagree with the reasoning.
(I think ‘x’ because I value ‘y’ more than ‘z’.
Ah, ok, see I like ‘z’ so I’m against it.
But 10 years from now ‘z’ will be ‘q’ so we need more ‘y’
Ah, ok, I didn’t know that. Where does support for that come from?
And so forth.)
Politics is instead rife with opinion taken as valid that would be allowed nowhere else in human interaction. And it infects nearly all related issues with the same thinking.
I’ve been listening to the ‘extreme’ politics stations for a bit. Left wing radio out here (air america, etc.) and the right wing stuff (ubiquitous). More and more I’m noticing the commericals.
The stuff with Bill O’Reilly and Jet Blue crystalized this thought a bit more, but for the most part branding has been extending itself through the political sphere.
Indeed, what car you drive is nearly a political statement (most certainly an ecological one at the very least).

I wonder if principle won’t ultimately be commodified out of existance.
Idiocracy touched on this (albeit in a stupid way, I wouldn’t accuse Mike Judge of being highbrow) but opted to stick to the (less interesting IMHO) plot and satire of culture.
But I think it’s this that is dangerous. I can reason with anyone, even someone with a diametrically opposite perspective, as long as its principled.
It is however virtually impossible to reason with someone engaging in rationalization, because the views they espouse (liberal, conservative, anarchist, fascist, whatever) are entirely irrelevent and so can self-contradict or be tautological and their actions can completely contravene what they say are their values.

It’s worse, I think, than taking a bribe. With a criminal you can at least fathom their motivations. A guy who sticks up a bank or something might rationalize *why* he needs the money, but he’s probably not going build some fantasy ethos around it, enlist others and try to convince people it’s good for them.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:06 PM on August 15, 2007


“But unfortunately while watching it I learned I also like looking at my watch and wondering when the movie was going to end”

And yet again, art imitates/anticipates life.


Unless the art is "this is a crappy movie even though it could've been good" and the life is "man, too bad this movie is no good despite the possibilities it showed", then I'm not sure I agree.
posted by inigo2 at 2:25 PM on August 16, 2007


"Is there a link between donations given and bills passed?"

Is there a Pope in the Vatican?
posted by ZachsMind at 7:27 PM on August 16, 2007


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