Many reporters are familiar with tools for tracking federal campaign money, but not enough know about a key helper in tracking money in politics at the state level.
The National Institute on Money in State Politics offers one-stop shopping for many data resources. Some know it as followthemoney.org. The institute collects data about spending related to state-level races in all 50 states, codes and collates it, and presents it all in a searchable online database. Check it out here.
The Web-based interface is smart and intuitive, making it easy to work up local and state-level stories about issues close to where you live. But the aggregation of data from all states allows investigation of broader nationwide patterns in state politics.
If you want to learn more about the sophisticated investigative tools available on followthemoney.org, Institute director Ed Bender will be offering a hands-on computer workshop at SEJ's 2010 Annual Conference in Missoula, Montana. The session will be on Friday, October 15, during the concurrent sessions from 11:00 am to 12:15 pm, in Computer Lab 009, Don Anderson Hall, Univ. of Montana School of Journalism. Admission is first-come first-served.