Poligraft Brings Politics and Influences Together in Just One Click


Poligraft LogoToday Sunlight is launching Poligraft, what I think is one of the coolest, most revealing and most interesting tools of the many we have developed.

In fact, this user-driven website and bookmarklet — which extracts text from any news story, blog post or news release and runs it through a filter to determine the “influence connections” between the entities listed in that text — is pretty close to a dream come true. And the project has personal roots.

Poligraft creates an enhanced view of the influence connections between politicians and organizations.

More than 20 years ago one of my mentors — Philip M. Stern, author of The Best Congress that Money Can Buy (Pantheon, 1988) — put the idea in my head of a one “click” search to see all the influences that focus their attention on Congress. Since Sunlight’s founding that’s been known as “Ellen’s Vision of the One-Click Future” bringing together many disparate data sets to tell the larger story. And while not yet a perfect rendition of that, Poligraft today is one of our efforts to that end, and while not a perfect tool, it’s a very exciting one.

There are knotty problems you’ll find in using it, not the least of which is that without government’s help in establishing a system of unique identifiers for all those who file reports with the government, we still wrestle with lack of name standardization across various filing entities. While we’ve tried hard to sort through that, it’s far from perfect yet.

Poligraft is expandable and to that end in a few weeks we’ll be adding other related data sets — just as soon as we can get them ready to be integrated. (We’d certainly welcome your suggestions of what else to add as well.)

Here’s a short video that explains how to use the tool – it’s incredibly easy.

Poligraft is designed for users as both a user-driven website or as a bookmarklet (I prefer this), offering an interactive snapshot of the connections between the players in the text you want to review. All you have to do is to paste the URL or text of a news article, blog post or press release in the text box and Poligraft creates an enhanced view of the interconnections between the people, organizations and relationships described within the text.

Poligraft is built on top of a site we launched a couple of months ago — TransparencyData.com — the one stop shop for downloadable influence data sets. And both of these sites are built on the work of the Center for Responsive Politics, the National Institute on Money in State Politics and various other government data sets.

The Knight Foundation funded the work on this project, and we are most grateful for their support of this and many other tools we are creating.