for Responsive Politics is a non-partisan, non-profit research group. Headquartered
DC, its purpose is to track money spent in elections and the influence of that money on
both elections and public policy. The Center’s stated purpose is to create
more informed voters, more involved citizens, and more responsive government. The
Center maintains a web site at: http://www.opensecrets.org. Major funders include the Ford Foundation,
the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Joyce Foundation.
A major task performed by
this organization is to track “who gives” to various campaigns (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/index.asp), and “who receives” those funds http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/index.asp). The information provided
is very detailed. For example, by clicking on the link for Senator Lautenberg
of New Jersey, one can see that he received $26,500 from labor unions, and this
in turn is broken down to an exact dollar figure contributed by each of thirteen unions.
It would be a very interesting assignment for students to look at campaign contributions received by a particular Senator
or Congressperson from specific sources, and then to observe how that same elected official voted on particular issues of
concern to each contributor.
There are some very interesting
issue related articles on the organization’s web site, including a recent article that explores campaign contributions
and their possible linkage to contracts awarded for the rebuilding of Iraq.
This article can be found at: (http://www.opensecrets.org/news/rebuilding_iraq/index.asp).
Another feature of this site
is a “Follow the Money Handbook”, the links for which can be found on the organization’s publications page
(http://www.opensecrets.org/pubs/index.asp). The handbook spells out the
steps one should take to complete an analysis of political contributions.
Of greatest interest at present
is the information that this organization provides on contributions received by Bush, Kerry, Nader, Badnarik, Peroutka, and
Cobb in the 2004 Presidential election (http://www.opensecrets.org/presidential/index.asp). A related page on the site provides
coverage on a state by state basis for Congressional races in the 2004 election (http://www.opensecrets.org/races/index.asp). An analysis of money and its influence
on elections can be found under “The Big Picture: The Money Behind the
If you are planning to make
the upcoming election a topic of discussion in your classes, this organization and its web site are useful resources.