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Money and Politics in a Competitive Year

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A report issued yesterday by the Federal Election Commission shows what happens when congressional candidates actually face competitive elections, as they are this year: spending goes up. It’s up by 36% overall from two years ago, the report found – a significant two-year jump even in the world of political campaigning.

The FEC report is based on reports filed by the campaigns through October 18, the final reporting deadline for congressional candidates before Election Day.

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Do-it-Yourself Watchdogging

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Why should investigative reporters have all the fun?

Sunlight today is unveiling a new website – Watchdogging 101. It’s a collection of more than 20 illustrated tutorials that give step-by-step instructions on where and how to dig out information on the web about money and influence in national politics.

It’s all presented in a Q&A format and the questions run the gamut from the most basic – Who’s my Congressman? – to more complicated issues like tracking industry giving and finding out who’s lobbying for whom.

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Open Secrets is back – cross your fingers!

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Well, all it takes it washing your car to make it rain. And it looks like all it took for OpenSecrets to get back on line was writing a blog to say it's off the air. Sort of.

At first it looked like Open Secrets was back online, but the only thing working was the home page. But by 11:40 am ET the website looked to be functioning normally. Congratulations to CRP on getting back in business. Let's hope their computer karma stays healthy between now and Election Day!

 

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No Open Secrets

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Just a week before Election Day, the nation’s biggest archive of information on who’s paying the bills for the 2006 election is closed to the public. A computer glitch knocked the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website off the air last Friday. It’s been offline ever since, and is still offline as I write this early Tuesday morning.

I’m not going to suggest that this is some election-eve conspiracy, but if it were it could hardly have come at a more critical time. This is the equivalent of Macy’s closing its doors for four days in the middle of the Christmas shopping season.

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The Season of Sleaze

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Here’s another double-edged benefit of the internet: this year, thanks to YouTube and other sites that let users post and share videos, the whole world can see the sort of sleaze that passes for political advertising as Election Day draws near.

In fact, the one-two-three punch of Google, YouTube and a broadband connection means that anyone can do in a few seconds what I did yesterday – learn about offensive ads in a newspaper story, then take a look at them yourself.

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Kitchen Table Voting

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I don’t know what percentage of the ballots filed every election in the state of Oregon have food stains on them, but I’ll bet it’s higher than the national average.

I say that, having splashed a little spaghetti sauce on my ballot at lunchtime yesterday, as I sat filling it out on the kitchen table. I did the same thing the last time I voted, though that time, as I recall, it was gravy.

Chalk it up as an occupational hazard of voting by mail - which is what all of us do here in Oregon every time there’s an election.

My ballot arrived Monday, about a week after the official voter guides. At lunchtime yesterday, I laid out everything on the dining room table and worked my way through the propositions and the candidates one by one, marking my choices on the ballot as I went. In all, I guess it took about 30 or 40 minutes to read everything and fill it all out. Today I’ll drop it off at the post office and be done with it for another two years.

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Suspending Disbelief

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Sunday is usually not a serious day for news. There’s always a scrap or two of something quotable from the morning talk shows – that’s their purpose, after all – but it’s usually pretty ephemeral stuff, all but forgotten by Monday afternoon.

But not this Sunday – at least not to my reading of a story in the Monday papers about a comment by President Bush that aired yesterday on ABC. Here’s the recap from a New York Times story:

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The Question Nobody’s Asking

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Today’s the monthly reporting deadline for political party committees at the Federal Election Commission – the second-to-last report we’ll get before election day. In anticipation, there’ve been a flurry of news stories this week focusing on the flow of money as a way of analyzing the horse race.

Wednesday’s story by Jim VandeHei in the Washington Post – “Funding Constrains Democrats” – was particularly illuminating, as it revealed both a hunger for more money and a split among Democrats in how to husband the resources they’ve got. As VandeHei explained it:

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Matching Money & Votes: California Shows a New Way

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A lot of cars have passed through the intersection since Woody Allen famously dismissed leaving his beloved New York for the California glitz of Los Angeles, “where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.”

Give it up, Woody. California’s done it again – this time with a new and intriguing web-based template for matching political contributions with legislative votes.

It’s on a new website, launched just yesterday, called MAPLight.org. (The MAP stands for Money And Politics.) The site is the brainchild of Dan Newman, executive director of Take Back California, a campaign finance activist group that created the website as its latest project.

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GOP Leads Money Race. What’s New?

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The Washington Post is reporting today that GOP candidates in close congressional races have a big advantage in campaign funds over the Democrats that are trying to send them packing. While this isn’t exactly a surprising revelation – in fact, the opposite would be real page one news – it’s at least one bright note for the party’s beleaguered standard-bearers in a year that’s probably not going to go their way.

Does it matter? Personally, I don’t think so. I’d argue – as I did a couple of weeks ago – that in this year’s political climate, it’s not the spending difference between the candidates that so important. Rather, it’s the amount of money raised by the challenger.

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