Bringing key information to the surface
Called "Adopt a State," the program recruits programmers with PHP, MySQL, Flash and mapping skills, who chose one of the country's states and work with MAPLight.org to write scripts to put that state's legislation and vote data in the company's database. Combining the legislation and vote data brings key information to the surface, according to the company, including contributions given by interest groups supporting and opposing each bill; average donations given to legislators voting for and against each bill; and a timeline of contributions and votes for each bill, graphically identifying when legislators received large donations before or after their votes.There is an end to the means with the mapping mashup, according to Newman. "Before it was difficult to point to influencers with any specificity," said Newman. "It's been known what amounts were given [to politicians from special interest groups] and there's been a known outcome with legislation, but money and votes were never put into one database," he said. Newman and his colleagues "that started this organization, did so because it was very frustrating to figure out where money and votes were tied together. That's what's ground breaking about our work. We can say legislators voted this way-we put the data out there for everyone to see, for bloggers to comment on, for the press to hold legislators responsible," said Newman. MAPLight has a good shot at winning the $100,000, according to Newman. Last year the company entered a similar contest put on by NetSquared and won the $25,000 top prize to build a Presidential Money Race Widget, a tool that measured campaign fund raising efforts. But what if the project doesn't win? "We'll keep seeking funding for mapping," said Newman. "We're seeking volunteer programmers to help us develop" the project further.
Mapping the data will also provide a visual image of where members of Congress get their funding, whether funding comes from voters and special interest groups that live in close proximity to a specific member of congress, or from individuals and special interest groups in another state. It also tracks who the special interests are in each state, city or neighborhood that fund a specific campaign, according to MAPLight's NetSquared press release.