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MapLight.org Shines Light On Congressional Votes, Campaign Contributions

The site combines official records from the Library of Congress and the Center for Responsive Politics' Web site into a free public database of bills, voting records, and campaign contributions.
MapLight.org -- a Web site that lets voters find out how their elected representatives have voted and where those representatives receive funding -- has gone national.

The Web site, which began last year with information on state legislators in California, last week launched a search engine that allows users to search for congressional members' votes and campaign contributions, and identify links between the two.

The site combines official records from the Library of Congress and the Center for Responsive Politics' Web site into a free public database of bills, voting records, and campaign contributions. It offers information on more than 100 subject areas, legislators, special interest groups, and bills for the both the 109th and 110th Congress.

"Information that used to take days to uncover is now available at the click of a mouse," Dan Newman, executive director of MapLight, said in a statement. "How often did representatives vote with the special interests that financed their election campaigns? Now you can find out online in seconds."

Users can search by bill, (number or subject area), representative, or special interest group. The site contains limited information on what creators deemed to be key legislation from the 109th Congress. From this point on, it will include all legislation except minor resolutions like those naming institutions, associate director Andrew Page said in an interview Tuesday.

The site contained campaign finance information before but only in the form of reports, Page said. "Now people can take what they want, and use what they want, and not have to weed through reports," he said.

MapLight launched, with data limited to the California Legislature, in October. It presented its tools last month in San Francisco at the Web. 2.0 Expo and launched the congressional feature last Wednesday. The site plans to expand into other highly populated states and add real-time XML feeds and widgets, Page said. It is unlikely to go back and fill in information on previous years because when developers did so for California, they found users were more interested in depth and current information, Page said.

MapLight is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group based in Berkeley, Calif. Page said two-thirds of its funding comes from individuals, and significant portions have come from the Sunlight Foundation, the Arkay Foundation, and the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation.