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Group Shines a Light on Money in Politics

November 2, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - It's Election Day, and by now you've probably been bombarded with radio and television ads either touting one politician or bashing another. With money flowing like rivers into campaigns, it's been tough for Missouri voters to know where those funds are coming from - until now. A non-partisan research group called Maplight.Org has created a new "widget" that tracks where the money originates, and to which member of Congress it is going.

Daniel Newman, the group's executive director, says this information is important.

"Members of Congress are running for election or reelection, and they'll tell you that they represent the voters, but actually they're getting their campaign cash from companies and interest groups that have a stake in what government does; and what this widget does is show a silhouette of each lawmaker along with logos of their top contributors."

Newman says money influences almost everything that happens in Washington and in state government. He feels the voters have a right to know who is backing their legislators.

"The politicians are never going to stand up there and say, 'Money influenced how I vote;' the donors are not going to say that either. We have a voting democracy, sure, but we also have a dollar democracy that's overlaid on top of this, and that's what that widget illustrates."

Maplight.org also tracks legislation and provides a resource for voters to stay informed on relevant issues.

The downloadable widgets are designed with NASCAR-like logos that are available by visiting
www.maplight.org

Heather Claybrook/Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - MO