Interest in this year's elections is already rising, bolstered in part by fallout from the health care reform battle and the recent Supreme Court decision regarding corporate campaign contributions. The climate change legislation debate likely will add to the interest as legislators and their challengers stake out positions.
Most incumbents and challengers have already made their intentions to run for office known, the caucus process is unfolding in states that have them, primaries are on tap for this summer, and elections are set for November.
As usual, it will be key to follow the money. One helpful Web site for doing this that has been available for a few years is MAPLight.org  (operated by a nonprofit organization named to reflect its goal of shining Light on the connections between Money And Politics). The site has just been upgraded and expanded to provide more information for making connections between lobbying and campaign contributions and the actions of members of the US House and Senate, including their votes on specific bills and issues.
There are many ways to search and organize the data. For just a few examples, explore this URL:
Select the House or Senate member you are interested in. The initial results note when the legislator was elected, a list of committees the legislator is on, and total donations received in the past two years.
Under each of the tabs on that page, you can get many summaries and details about the money. For instance, under the "$ Near Votes" tab you can get insights on how a donation related to a legislator's vote on a bill, including information on the donor, amount of donation, whether the donor supported or opposed the bill, the number of days between the donation and vote, and how the legislator voted.
Other tabs provide information such as dollar summaries for categories of donors (e.g., trade unions, law firms, energy), leading individual or organizational contributors, and the geography of where donations came from.
For many more information sources on money, politics, and tracking the connections, see the TipSheet of Aug. 19, 2009.