As another college year begins, tens of thousands of academics will once again be scrambling to submit proposals to the National Science Foundation, hoping to secure government funding for their research. Each year, the National Science Foundation (NSF) bestows more than $7 billion worth of federal funding on about 12,000 research proposals, chosen out of about 45,000 submissions.
Thanks to the power of open data, we can now see how representation on NSF federal advisory committees connects to which universities get the most funding. (Federal advisory committee membership data is a feature of Influence Explorer.)
As Sunlight’s Video production Director it is my delight to be producing an ongoing video series called OpenGov Champions, featuring citizens who take action in their own ways to open up, or as in this case, contribute to, government data.
I was especially excited to go to Brooklyn, NY to film this episode in which we showcase Liz Barry from Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) and their grassroots mapping efforts. Theirs is a unique way to work with and contribute to open government data. I had watched Liz’s TED talk about the mapping they did in 2010 of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Their maps were the only high resolution images available at the onset of the spill and spread all over the world media because access to airspace was restricted and planes could not capture aerial photos using traditional methods. It all had started with Jeffrey Warren in MIT and others who were experimenting with new ways to create high resolution maps using low cost, DIY technology like kites, balloons and cheap digital cameras. When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, they saw the opportunity to help by mapping the scope of the disaster. That’s when Liz met them and jumped right in, helping with logistics and connecting people with boats and crews. In my mind there is a rock star quality to this kind of opengov data work. And they have indeed gotten a lot of fame for their work and were a Knight News Challenge winner in 2011 among other things.
Congrats to Sunlight grantee Politify on their launch!
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.
In 2010, voters were so determined to upset the Washington establishment that they elected a House of Representatives in which 20 percent of the faces were new. It was a political revolution. But nearly two years later, the 89 rookies elected in November, 2010—80 Republicans and nine Democrats—don’t look all that different from their more veteran colleagues.
It wasn’t long after they arrived in Washington in January 2011 before some of the newbies began mimicking their seniors in hitting the party trail, holding fundraisers to cover their 2010 campaign debts. Since then these corporate special interests and businesses registered to lobby have doubled down on their campaign donation to the first-year House members.
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.
Head-to-head voting comparison between representatives in Congress.
Companies, associations and the lobbyists employed by them contributed almost $19 million to charities in honor of federal officials last year, the vast majority of it for members of Congress, according to a new report I wrote over on the Reporting Group blog. The report parsed messy disclosures that all lobbying entities have to file every six months ever since 2008, when a law aimed at shining a light on lobbyist influence in Washington came into effect.
To find out which lawmakers and cabinet members were honored most, or to see which interests paid the most in honorary expenses last year, search the interactive graphic below. You can even filter the graphic for lawmakers from your home state.
Super PACs had their biggest month ever, raising over $55 million in June.
That impressive haul brought Super PACs’ total fundraising since Jan 1. 2011 to more than $313 million. As of around June 30, Super PACs had about $110 million in the bank (that total includes groups filing reports due between June 27 and July 13).
The Guardian’s Datastore recently announced the results of the economic recovery visualization competition they ran with Google. We’re going to highlight a different competition entry every Wednesday for the next few weeks. Today’s entry, “Are Connectedness and Transparency the Key to Recovery?” by Ryan Panchadsaram, was chosen as the winner of the competition.
Transparency International have ranked the world’s 105 largest companies in their Transparency in Corporate Reporting index. Researchers evaluated each organisation in terms of the steps it takes to fight corruption and the openness of its financial self-reporting. Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil was the clear leader, while the Bank of China came in last place. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway came 101st and Barclays, in 71st, was the UK’s lowest rated company. Use the interactive to explore the data, including a breakdown of each company’s score across the three assessed categories (second tab of the graphic) Dark colours and low scores indicate the least transparent companies.
While super PACs, seven-figure checks and the heated Republican presidential nomination fight that Mitt Romney eventually won dominated the news the first half of this election year, congressional campaigns quietly have been pumping hundreds of millions of dollars into the political economy — and the real avalanche of congressional campaign expenditures and campaign ads is yet to begin.
If Citizens United was the Big Bang of a new era of money in politics, here’s the universe it formed: rapidly expanding super-PACs and nebulous 501(c) groups exerting gravitational pull on the 2012 election. Mouse over a “planet” to peer into its funding and top donors. Sizes are based on latest reported revenues (if disclosed). This data is live—come back for weekly updates.
Want to learn more about dark money? We put up a good post on the subject on Monday.