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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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Congressional Transparency on a Map

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"We can never understand [a House member’s] Washington activity without also understating his perception of his various constituencies and the home style he uses to cultivate their support…" states Richard Fenno in Home Style: House Members in Their Districts. Fenno understands that the work of members of Congress is more than committee meetings and votes but is also people they meet with from the district. The work in the district builds trust constituents need to send them to Washington and to accept the decisions they make there. Fenno’s makes the point that the work of lawmakers done in the district is not an exhibition but the yang to Washington’s Ying.

This trust that lawmakers create in the district extends to who they meet with in Washington. The Punch Clock motto has always been “Members of Congress work for us, and we should know what they do every day.” Fenno made this point a different way, “Trust is, however, a fragile relationship. It is not an overnight or one-time thing. It is hard to win; and it must be constantly renewed and rewon. "

In this spirit, Sunlight has decided to help out by creating a trust-building tool. This tool, the Punch Clock Map, is a Google map mashup with corresponding RSS feeds that lets citizens see for themselves just how elected officials spend their time and how they serve their district’s needs.

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