There’s a story in the New York Times that yesterday the House voted to take back some of the billions of dollars in incentives it had given to oil and gas producers, with lots of Republicans voting against oil company interests. Sounds like a man bites dog story, but is it?
Let’s look at what the data tells us. In the last election cycle, the Republicans in the House got roughly three times more money from oil and gas companies than did the Democrats. The OpenSecrets links show that in 2006, Republican House members have received an average of $11,645 versus an average $4,331 to Democrats. For the full 2004 cycle, the figures were $26,884 for the House Repubs and $9,754 for the Dems.
But how about those Republicans who voted against oil and gas company interests this time? Did they get more or less than their Republican colleagues from the same interests? That can’t be figured out easily, but by looking at the list, we’d bet that’s probably the case. We will check it out and get back to you.
Now this is all interesting if you just want to explore academically how the money politics game is played in Washington. I mean, the House has already passed this legislation so learning the patterns of money is only academically interesting.
But what would it take to be able to do this kind of analysis ahead of a vote and get that distributed to people who really care about these issues? (That would be just about everyone these days with gas prices and oil company profits soaring through the roof.) That’s what Sunlight is interested in. Anticipating these votes and putting the tools in the hands of citizens so they have the time to register agreement or disagreement with what Congress is doing, and who it’s doing it for is a core goal of ours.
One step in this direction is the really interesting work of Rafael DeGennaro over at ReadTheBill.org. Raf has a really simple idea: require that all legislation be posted on the Internet for 72 hours before it’s voted on. Seems like a no brainer to me and I would bet to anyone who heard of the idea. What excuse could Congress possibly have for resisting such an effort?