BPD Update Online, Fall 2004
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Carol J. Williams, Associate Editor

The Center for Responsive Politics is a non-partisan, non-profit research group.  Headquartered in Washington, 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 Elections” (http://www.opensecrets.org/bigpicture/index.asp).


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.

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BPD Update Online, Volume 26, No. 3, Fall 2004

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