This is very big news. As of today, Center for Responsive Politics’ site OpenSecrets.org has gone “open data.” For the first time in their 26-year history, CRP has made its most popular data archives (think campaign financing, lobbying, 527 data, etc.) fully available to the public for download for free. They’ve opened up 200 million (yes, that's the right number!) data records from their archive so that citizens, activists, journalists and anyone else interested in following money in U.S. politics can data dive and rummage around. This means researchers and Web developers can take the standardized and coded money-in-politics data, such as campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures, to create timelines, charts, maps and other illustrations to see more clearly how Washington really works.
Sheila Krumholz, CRP director and long-time colleagues, knows that by putting their data into more hands they will put more eyes on Washington. This, in turn, will engage more Americans in their government, and that will fuel change in how our government functions. We agree which is why Sunlight providing the financing to make this happen. "All these enhancements to OpenSecrets.org are about one thing: showing more people how money's influence on politics affects their lives--and empowering them to do something about it," Sheila said in a statement.
The data is being released under a Creative Commons license.
All of the staff, for its entire history (full disclosure, I was the ED at CRP from 1984-1997) have worked incredibly hard building the group’s long-earned reputation for accuracy and integrity. And now they are giving the public the keys to take government transparency to the next level. This will have a long-term impact, undoubtedly inspiring many effective and creative uses of the data by civic hackers, journalists and bloggers.
Congratulations to Sheila and her team for this momentus step forward. And congrats to all of us for having the wisdom to use it to further tell the story of the role of money as the fuel that drives our politics.