Sunlight grantee MAPLight.org shows the impact of campaign contributions on legislative votes via technology. And by making these connections transparent they are giving citizens the ability to better judge members of Congress.
MAPLight.org’s latest tool tracks the flood of special-interest money that swamps congressional committees when they are considering a particular piece of legislation. Their new “Committee Tool” reveals campaign contributions received by each committee member from special interest groups for key bills which are before every congressional committee.
Below are two examples of how MAPLight.org’s Committee Tool can reveal what’s really going on in committee deliberations and debates. The first looks at H.R. 5244, Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights Act of 2008, which has been stuck in the House Committee on Financial Services since February. The bill would protect credit card holders from banks arbitrarily raising interest rates among other things. By using the MAPLight.org’s program you can see how banks and other financial interests who are opposed to the bill have given over $341,000 to the committee chair and $465,000 to the committee’s ranking member. Conversely, proponents of the bill gave the two members $10,000 and $2,000 respectively. Little wonder the bill is stuck in committee.
The second example deals with H.R. 5632, a bill that would prohibit importation of radioactive waste, and its tenure in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce where it’s been stuck since March. The nuclear plant construction, equipment and services industry are opposed to the bill, and have given the committee chair over $45,000. Environmental and other interests in favor of the bill have given just under $3,800 to the chair. Here’s wishing the bill luck.
As MAPLight.org says, they just provide the facts about campaign contributions…they leave it up to citizens to draw their own conclusions. Thanks to MAPLight.org, the process is much more transparent.