OpenGov Voices: Day of Action on Sunday: Know the influence behind your grocery purchase


Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.Szelena Gray

Szelena Gray is the Executive Director of Rootstrikers, a new generation of activists founded by Lawrence Lessig to take a stand against the corrupting influence of money in politics. Found a good story about corruption? Use #Rootstrikers.

There are many ways to define smart consumerism — including being budget, GMO, organic, or fairtrade conscious. Why not add corruption to the list?

For companies whose products we buy every day, it’s business as usual to spend millions of dollars to influence public elections. Yet most Americans don’t shop according to their views on money in politics, and if they would, might not know where to begin. On May 19th, Rootstrikers in fourteen cities across the country will aim to change that with a public education campaign about the money that flows into politics from some of our favorite brands.

Here’s the plan: Rootstrikers will head to local consumer haunts and, with the help of a radical new app called BizVizz — an iPhone app that provides people with data on corporate accountability including taxes, government subsidies and federal campaign contributions — will shine a light on the connection between our shopping carts and congressional coffers.

BizVizz is powered by Sunlight’s Influence Explorer API  with public data from Federal Election Commission filings, IRS filings and other government records.


Why targeted local actions?

In addition to engaging consumers, Rootstrikers will use the day of action as an opportunity to explore the app on their own, to document their activity, and to help create stories about real connections to corporate influence. BizVizz is designed to be more like a toy than an app. Instead of overwhelming users with too much data, it uses a fun-like feature that makes it easier to manipulate. You can read more about the corporate accountability app here.

How it works:

On the day of action, after you have downloaded the BizVizz app on your iPhone, snap a picture of a logo or product in a store to get information about companies. And if you want more information behind the logo or product you just took a picture of, you will be redirected to BizVizz’s partners including Sunlight Foundation, Good Jobs First and Citizens for Tax Justice who will provide a deeper dive into issues of corporate and government accountability. The app provides the platform to turn your new-found knowledge into action in the form of opportunities to learn more about accountability issues or get involved by supporting legislation, a partner organization’s campaign, a petition drive or a day of action — just like we are doing.

We’re out to use measurements of corruption in dollars to show its relevance to real lives, so what follows from the event is just as important as the event itself.

You can find out more about the day of action here, including a real time measure of our activity with the app on May 19th.

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