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Bailout beneficiaries give hidden ‘bundles’ to House Committee overseeing industry reform

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As the House Financial Services Committee begins to consider financial industry reform legislation (discussion drafts started appearing on the committee's Web site on Sept. 25), will we see the same kind of hidden "bundles" flowing to members that we saw going to key members of the Senate Finance Committee from health care interests and their lobbyists? That one-two punch flooded Sen. Max Baucus' campaign coffers with more than $450,000 from 11 health care interests--and 109 lobbyists who represented them--from Jan. 2007 through the end of June, 2009.

To date, we 've found far fewer of these contribution clusters--in ...

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The upper chamber and the slower filing

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With ten minutes to go before the midnight filing deadline, the only senator whose campaign finance report has made it through FEC.gov is Barbara Mikulksi. All available Senate filing summaries as of 11:50pm, as compiled by Sunlight, are downloadable here.

Darlene Fitzgerald Price, a former US Customs special agent gunning to replace retiring Kentucky Sen. Jim Bunning, has collected about $18,000 this quarter, and spent about $8,000. Billy Parson, aiming to unseat embattled Nevada Sen. John Ensign, has raised $23,000 and spent $22,000, incurring $20,000 in debt.

Check back in the morning for ...

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It’s 11:00. Do you know where your candidates are?

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Third-quarter campaign finance reports for House and Senate members are due at midnight, in just about an hour. Here at the Sunlight Foundation's Real Time Investigations, we're experimenting with a new utility that monitors the Federal Election Commission's Web site for reports as they trickle in--in, well, real time.

With a little over an hour to go before the reporting deadline, 130 House candidates in 104 districts, including 41 incumbents, have filed reports, according to the Sunlight-compiled spreadsheet. Check out their summary information, including amount raised, amount spent, and make-up of contributions between individual contributions, political action ...

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Praise for a labor app, and the promise of more great work from our community

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The final honorable mention among our Apps for America 2 contest entries, Employment Market Explorer, helps users assess the labor market in a region, watching unemployment over time at the city, county and state level. It contains only two measures—employment and unemployment—so it falls short of providing a more drilled-down look at the labor markets, including sectors, and I'd like to be able to compare regions or states head-to-head. There is a lot of potential here, and as the financial turmoil continues, employment issues will be important to watch. Perhaps a future app will mine the data for some interesting conclusions on the national scale, or highlight areas where change has been particularly notable.

Thanks to everyone who helped make our second Apps for America contest a success, and remember, the fun doesn't end with the competition. Our volunteer community of civic-minded developers—which we hope contest entrants, as well as everyone else, will join--is always hard at work on new projects, and it would be great to see a more in-depth look at labor issues in the future.

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Mapps for America

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Two simple maps making environmental hazard data more meaningful round out our list of Apps for America 2 honorable mentions. GreenSpaceMap highlights six categories of sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency on a Google Maps overlay within a slick Java applet, including Superfund sites and Toxic Release Inventory flags.

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Federal Register App has Sunlight Staff Singing

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The great thing about the Federal Register is that is has everything—it's the historical record for the entire federal government, and outlines the decrees coming out of various agencies in near real-time.

The problem with the Federal Register is that it has everything, and it's virtually impossible even for experienced researchers to spot what they need in the massive reams of blocky, sparsely-formatted text.

That's where Bernie the Federal Register Watcher comes in—an Apps for America submission so pragmatic that some of us in the Sunlight Labs have been singing our own accompanying jingle for the app, named in honor of the Register's first director.

Bernie scrapes the register and turns it into a virtual newsfeed, allowing you to monitor just the areas you're interested in, drilling down by department, agency name and announcement type, and browsing digestible summaries, which are also available as Atom feeds.

Though the register, in its raw form especially, has a largely deserved reputation as a repository of dry bureaucrat-ese being shoveled daily into a void, resting in little-perused booklets by the Government Printing Office, Bernie seeks to build a community around the notices, allowing users to flag and comment on the less-monotonous dispatches.

In the end, this application achieves the measure of success we like to see most. It uses technology for a specific goal: To make a government tool that was hard to use, suddenly useful.

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Defense contractors join Turkish lobbying effort in pursuit of arms deals

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The Defense Department's request last week for congressional approval of the sale of $8 billion worth of PAC-3 missiles to Turkey was the latest victory for a disparate group of interests including defense contractors, finance and energy corporations, trade groups, the Turkish government and a well-financed network of domestic advocacy nonprofits. Intersecting interests have led them to join forces and lobby on a number of issues, including the characterization of distant historical events.

Turkey and the domestic advocacy groups that promote the interests of Turkish-Americans did so to protect the Turkey's image, while U.S. companies sought to ...

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Turkey’s influence over lawmakers surfaces in Ohio hearing

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Labeling the killing of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923, many at the hands of Ottoman government, an act of genocide has been a controversial issue in Turkey, among some historians, in the U.S. Congress, and now in the unlikely venue of the Ohio Board of Elections, where recent hearings indirectly considered the government of Turkeys connection, if any, to Turkish advocacy groups in Washington.

Backed by lawyers from the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund, Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, filed a false claims complaint against David Krikorian, who ran against her in 2008 as an independent and ...

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