Maplight Provides More Ways To Link Money and Politics

February 15, 2012

Along with this year’s presidential candidates, many members of Congress have been gearing up their re-election bids. Among the first orders of business has been, and will be, fundraising.

The organization MapLight (named for its interest in shining a light on money and politics) unveiled in January and February 2012 three additional ways of looking at its data on money given to incumbent members of the US Senate and House of Representatives (as well as their state equivalents in California and Wisconsin for some data). The database of over 14 million records covers ties between lobbying money, legislators, and either all legislation or that relating to several environmental topics. This information can help you better cover Congressional election races of interest to your audience.

This week (Feb. 13) MapLight is scheduled to add to its “Topics” data that breaks out legislation by a variety of issue types. Among them are three with an environmental focus.

There are other categories that might overlap your beat, such as science and technology, health, education, and defense.

For each category there is information such as the leading contributors (by company/organization and industry type), the leading congressional recipients, recent prominent legislation, and recent pertinent news. Contributions since Jan. 1, 2007, are broken out in various ways, related to who gave and who got what when, and the legislator’s position or vote on the pertinent bill.

For instance, for each senator and representative, you can click on “$ Near Votes” and get data (all sortable so you can adapt it to your needs) on the contributor, their category of interest group, the pertinent legislation, the amount given, the donor’s position on the bill, the date of contribution, the date of a vote on the bill, and the senator’s or representative’s vote on the bill.

These sites, and the ones that follow, are in their early stages of development, so there likely will be a number of ways you want to look at the data that aren’t possible or readily apparent. If that happens, contact Pamela Heisey (cell 415-299-0898, phone 510-868-0894) to ask if she can assemble a free custom research report; the data may well be available, just not yet posted online. She may also be able to give you a password providing access to certain data that isn’t available on the public page.

On Jan. 26, 2012, MapLight announced its tool called “Who Owns Your State's Members of Congress?” It highlights the five companies or organizations in each state that have given the most money, along with the total amount given. For members of the House, the period covered is July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2011; for members of the Senate it’s July 1, 2005, to June 30, 2011.

On Jan. 12, 2012, MapLight announced its tool highlighting the top 200 companies, trade associations, unions, other organizations, and their employees that have given the most money to legislators serving in the US Congress since Jan. 1, 2007.

For each company or organization, there is data on the number of contributions, total amount, number of bills supported and opposed, number of bills that turned out in its favor, and the top five senators and representatives who received money.

The MapLight Web site also includes a number of other tools for looking at money and politics, including ways to look at interest groups, legislators, bills, and the money involved. A work in progress is development of final products that disclose which contributions came from inside or outside a senator’s or representative’s district or state. Limited data has been posted in the past; the new work is expected to be more comprehensive and current.

For challengers in each race who haven’t served in the US, CA, or WI legislatures, you’ll need to use other data sources to find out where the money for their election bid is coming from. See the TipSheet of March 2, 2005, for numerous information sources.