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Group Shines a Light on Money in Politics

November 3, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. - The election of 2010 is history, and one reason it was so historic was the unprecedented cash that flowed to both major parties, some of it anonymously. But it's now possible to know where at least some of that money came from. A non-partisan research group called Maplight.org, created a new "widget" that tracks political donations.

Daniel Newman is the group's executive director and notes while the winners say they represent the voters, contributions may say otherwise.

"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 it shows 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 believes 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."

Earlier this year the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill requiring donors to disclose their contributions, but it was blocked by Republicans in the Senate, so millions of dollars in donations are unaccounted for.

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

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT