Saving Democracy, One Website at a Time

Nov 2, 2006 by

With the coming of the much anticipated, highly contentious, negative-ad laden, double speak campaign ad filled mid-term elections I thought it might be nice to share a resource that proves there’s still a lot of good left in our democracy. Or at least, there are plenty of people trying to make our democracy better through the sharing of secrets. Whose secrets you ask? Our elected politicians’ secrets….about the money they receive from lobbyists, individual donors, and other special interest groups.

And now that I have your attention with two of the biggest concerns when it comes to politicians (their secrets and how they’re making millions of dollars), I can share what could be a very interesting, and useful, resource for high school civics classes or any classroom studying elections, campaigning, and lobbyists. Opensecrets.org is a site dedicated to providing the most accurate information pertaining to monetary donations to elected officials of Congress. In other words, it tracks where our politicians are getting their money, and then breaks it all down into a dizzying number of categories, special interest groups, individuals, and industries.

For example, if you wanted to find out just who is buttering your Senator’s bread the most, click on the “Who Gets” tab and then type in their name. You’ll be presented with a choice of viewing the 2004 or 2006 campaign contributions. From there you can view a breakdown of funds by source (Individual, PAC, candidate self-funding, etc.). You can break the PAC funding down further to see which industries are contributing how much, but the real fun comes from all of the data on the left hand side of the page. You can have students look up and compare officials’ top 20 lists of industrial contributors, expenditures (did my official really just spend $137 on gas at the 7-11 in Elkhart, IN?), and geographic totals. In other words, you can compare and see which parts of a city, county, or state (by zip code) are contributing how much to the politician, an excellent way for students to get a better understanding of the political landscape of their communities. You can even check to see if your official is receiving more money from local, instate parties, or from more national, out-of-state parties, which would be a perfect way to lead into a conversation with students about loyalties, political interests versus constituent interests, etc.

All in all, a great site brought to you by the “Center for Responsive Politics”, and a welcome addition to any classroom concerned about our political process, and what really drives it….the money. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret 🙂

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3 Comments

  1. I’m linking to that site on election day! That’s crazy. If this doesn’t make your kids hate politics, don’t know what will.

  2. Ben

    Ouch; I wasn’t exactly going for kids hating politics as a result of using this website. If anything, I thought it might make students more interested in politics. If they weren’t interested to learn exactly where politicians get their money (and subsequently why constituents concerns’ aren’t always their main motivation), then I thought students would at least be interested in the massive amounts of cash that campaigns and politicians can amass.

  3. “Our elected politicians’ secrets….about the money they receive from lobbyists, individual donors, and other special interest groups.”

    LOL Ben, I see that you know all-too-well how *corrupt* our “po-lie-ticians”, governments, and lobbyists all are!

    Signed By,

    Wayne Godfrey

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