Finally, a day before the first presidential debate, Yahoo! has pulled back the curtain on the Commission on Presidential Debates’ “The Voice Of…” online dashboard. It offers three options: “explore the issues,” “voice your view,” and “watch the debates.”
Of these, obviously the second one has the potential to be the most interesting. After you sign in, you are offered the opportunity to take a short series of multiple choice questions and share where you on topics like health care, energy, regulation, education, foreign affairs, terrorism jobs, taxes and federal spending. Then the app plugs your data into a bunch of bubbles, so you can see how you compare to other participants in the aggregate. A dynamic counter also show, in total, how many people have “shared their voice.”
How are House and Senate candidates’ war-chests faring this election cycle? The animations below show who has been pulling further ahead, and who has been closing fund-raising gaps as the races mature.
As Election Day approaches, two major dark money organizations have been maintaining their aggressive pace of anonymously funded election spending.
Crossroads GPS has now spent at least $108.8 million on political ads this cycle, including over $12 million dollars worth of ads so far in September. The Koch brothers-founded Americans for Prosperity has increased the pace of its spending, hitting a total of at least $65 million, with $32 million coming in the last six weeks. All of Americans for Prosperity’s expenditures have been directed at President Obama, whereas Crossroads GPS has aimed over two thirds of its spending at the President and most of what remains at Democratic Senate candidates.
Closing in on the upcoming party conventions, super PACs appear to have lost some of their steam in attracting the big bucks. The big guns of political ad spending took in $30 million during July, reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission show. That’s $25 million less than the previous month. In all, super PACs have raised $343 million since Jan.1, 2011, the beginning of this campaign cycle.
The top donors include names now familiar as repeat super PAC underwriters, along with a few newbies. Among the eight donors who write seven-figure checks last month are three corporate donors and one left leaning nonprofit.
Two conservative nonprofits, Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, have poured almost $60 million into TV ads to influence the presidential race so far, outgunning all super PACs put together, new spending estimates show.
To visualize the relationships among political contributions, The Wall Street Journal used social network software to map more than a million records of donor data tracked by the Federal Election Commission.
Chronicling a four-decade fight over campaign finance, and how American politics is fueled by secret spending.
For decades, the campaign finance wars have pitted two ideological foes against each other: one side clamoring to dam the flow while the other seeks to open the floodgates. The self-styled good-government types believe that unregulated political money inherently corrupts. A healthy democracy, they say, needs robust regulation—clear disclosure, tough limits on campaign spending and donations, and publicly financed presidential and congressional elections. The dean of this movement is 73-year-old Fred Wertheimer, the former president of the advocacy outfit Common Cause, who now runs the reform group Democracy 21.
On the other side are conservatives and libertarians who consider laws regulating political money an assault on free markets and free speech. They want to deregulate campaign finance—knock down spending and giving limits and roll back disclosure laws. Their leaders include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), conservative lawyer James Bopp Jr., and former FEC commissioner Brad Smith, who now chairs the Center for Competitive Politics, which fights campaign finance regulation.
This scatterplot does a few things well. First, it shows us the data. Every point is a current representative. Second, is uses color appropriately, red for Republicans, and blue for Democrats. Third, the fitted lines over grade level of speech add value. They show no correlation for the Democrats and they show a negative correlation for Republicans–that is, the grade level speech of Republicans declines as their voting record becomes more conservative. The scatterplot was made in R. A writeup on how it was made is here.
But the scatterplot also leaves some things to be desired. First off, none of the points are labeled. At the very least the outliers should have labels associated with them. We want to know, for example, who is that red dot speaking 5 grade levels above the average (it’s Dan Lungren)? And who are those dots on the far left and far right of each party? Labeling specific points in R probably isn’t easy. Also, it might be interesting to see if there’s a relationship between grade level speech, ideology, and tenure, so the points should be sized by the number of years in Congress.
The original Sunlight post - The changing complexity of congressional speech by Lee Drutman
The Obama administration releases a list of visitors who pass through the White House security gate every month. The database currently has more than 2.2 million entries for the period from January 2009 through Jan. 31, 2012.
Congress now speaks at almost a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago, with the most conservative members of Congress speaking on average at the lowest grade level, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis of the Congressional Record using Capitol Words.
Of course, what some might interpret as a dumbing down of Congress, others will see as more effective communications. And lawmakers of both parties still speak over the heads of the average American, who reads at between at 8th and 9th grade level.
Today’s Congress collectively speaks at a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005.