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Political influence by county: A new way to look at campaign finance data

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Over the summer, the Sunlight Foundation partnered with Azavea, a Philadelphia-based firm that specializes in mapping and geo-spatial analysis, to create location-based analyses of the federal campaign finance data we display on InfluenceExplorer.com. The partnership produced new and more accurate ways to identify trends in political spending according to location that were previously hard to complete because of complications in the mapping process. Many of the findings were mapped.

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How to know the Senate better through data visualization

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The shutdown has been averted. The debt ceiling has been raised. For now. In the process, Congress’ public approval has fallen to around 10 percent – and as low as 5 percent in one poll. But how much do you know about who actually serves in Congress? How do you know who to even disapprove of? Today, we unveil a new interactive tool that will allow you to get to know the U.S. Senate a little better. While it’s easy to focus on prominent Senate leaders like Harry Reid (D-Nev.) or Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or prominent grandstanders like Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), we think it matters who our 100 senators are: What are their backgrounds? What is their education? What did they do before coming to the Senate? Who do they depend on most to support their campaigns? All of these factors shape how they collectively make decisions. For this reason, we’ve created an interactive tool that allows you to explore the U.S. Senate. You can see how Senators break down across a wide variety of dimensions.

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Five years of Political Party Time

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We’ve told you before about the innovative ways our elected representatives raise cash: from assault rifle raffles to March Madness fund-a-thons to swanky out-of-town retreats. But taking a step back from all the invites shows some interesting trends. Check the graphic below, and see more dataviz on our 18,000 political fundraising invitations after the jump!

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Partying for dollars: Mapping five years of political fundraisers

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When it comes to political fundraising, Congress doesn’t travel very far; 76 percent of all political fundraisers in D.C. take place within three city blocks of the U.S. Capitol, a new study by the Sunlight Foundation shows. Additionally, these fundraisers are concentrated in and around congressional working hours and on days when the House and Senate are in session (more to come on this trend tomorrow). What this map illustrates, in interactive color, is how deeply ingrained fundraising has become in the day-to-day life of Washington and in the routines of the people who work here.

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What the banks’ three-year war on Dodd-Frank looks like

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Graphics by Ben Chartoff and Amy Cesal. Network analysis by Alexander Furnas. In the three years since President Barack Obama signed the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, federal regulators charged with implementing it have opened their doors to the biggest banks over and over again – 14 times as frequently as they have to representatives of consumer and pro-financial reform groups, a new Sunlight Foundation analysis finds. By most accounts, the banks’ besiege-the-regulators strategy has yielded rich rewards in sapping, slowing, and stymieing regulations intended to prevent another massive financial crisis. The emerging consensus is that Dodd-Frank implementation is limping, while the big banks are poised to return to being the most profitable industry in the U.S. Sunlight’s analysis is based on logs of Dodd-Frank meetings at the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, the Treasury, and the Federal Reserve Board., available through Sunlight’s Dodd-Frank Meetings Tracker. Because of problems with data quality and comprehensiveness, we had to exclude two other regulatory agencies (the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission). And because of the time involved in data cleaning, we also excluded 22 percent of reported meetings – those that did not include “active” players. (By “active” we mean organizations that showed up at least five times in meeting logs.) For more on the data, see our methodology section at the end of this post, and read our companion piece, “Dodd-Frank meeting data need improvement.” Still, the imbalances our analysis reveals are so overwhelming that we can be confident that they are not merely a feature of the reporting practices.

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Abortion restrictions going viral?

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As state lawmakers in Texas and North Carolina move towards enacting tough new limits on abortions, Sunlight decided to use some of our data tools to see how far the trend is spreading nationwide. To do so, we lifted key phrases from four of the most restrictive abortion bills that have either been enacted or considered recently and ran those terms through our Open States database, which surveys activity in all 50 state legislatures.

Restrictive abortion bills on the move in 2013

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The 1% of the 1% by state

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This table contains data on members of the 1% of the 1%, organized by state. For each column, the colors correspond to the size of the given indicator, with the darkest green referring to the ten states with the largest values, and the lightest green to the ten lowest. Click on a column name to re-sort the table by that column.

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Where the 1% of the 1% money goes

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The figures below break the 1% of the 1% up by deciles, going more in depth for the top decile (the top 3,139 donors) and then in more depth again for the top 314 donors (the 1% of the 1% of the 1%). The major takeaway  is that the biggest donors are the biggest donors because they give primarily to super PACs. Since individual aggregate contributions directly to candidates, parties and committees are legally capped at $117,000 (though some seem to ignore this), to be in the top 314 donors (minimum total of $304,000) requires at least some giving to super PACs, which allow for unlimited contributions.

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