Deep Throat's advice was never more needed: "Follow the money." Those reporters who want to follow Deep Throat's advice now have tools undreamed of in Woodward and Bernstein's hey-day. Campaign finance information today is available on-line, and packaged in ways that non-geeks will find easy to use.
Oil and coal money especially. Two new Web sites allow anyone to quickly view who in Congress is getting the most in campaign contributions from the oil and coal industries and their Political Action Committees. Or what companies or PACs are giving the most. Or how it might relate to the votes members cast.
- Follow the Oil Money is a site put up by a group called Oil Change International, based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, GovTrack.us, the Sunlight Labs API, and ultimately the Federal Election Commission.
- A sister site tracks oil money going into the presidential races. It is compiled and published by a nonprofit group, Oil Change USA, which advocates "separation of oil and state."
- Follow the Coal Money is a similar site that allows you to track the money given to politicians by the big coal companies. It is published by Oil Change International.
Standard caveats apply. The sites track only the larger contributions. While all data comes from the FEC, it is wise to check everything yourself before using it in a story.