TITLE: opensecrets.org

ACCESS: http://www.opensecrets.org

This site is maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics, which describes itself as "a non-partisan, non-profit research group . . . that tracks money in politics" mostly at the Federal level. It accepts no money from businesses or labor unions. Its aim is "creating a more educated voter, an involved citizenry, and a more responsive government."

The site offers a tour, quickly introducing a user to the kinds of information available and giving examples of how to analyze the data. Nearly all the data originates from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and is clearly presented in easy to read tables, graphs and logically organized links. The fundamental problem with any site relying on FEC data is that much campaign financing is controlled by groups using legal loopholes, such as issue advertising, to avoid putting any information on the public record.

The site's information is arranged in four broad categories: "Who's Giving," "Who's Getting," "Get Local," and "News and Issues." "Who's Giving" profiles 121 industries, labor unions and single-issue groups. Each profile contains a summary of donations going back to 1990, a list of top contributors, and a list of all recipients. It is also possible to look up individual donors, companies, PACs and soft money contributors. The database includes all donations of $200 or more reported to the FEC.

"Who's Getting" covers the presidential race, congressional races, Congress itself, congressional committees, and political parties. Profiles of individual politicians list contributions by geographical area, sector, industries or interest groups, PACs and individuals. Each member of Congress has a link to descriptions of legislation he or she sponsored. Each congressional committee's jurisdiction, membership, and the top contributors to each member are provided.

"Get Local" provides access to data arranged geographically. Again, the data describes who gives and who gets at the federal level. One can look at the data from a statewide perspective down to contributions listed by zip code. Many of the state profiles contain links to other sites with state level information on campaign finance.

"News and Issues" includes descriptions of current hot topics, such as prescription drugs, with lists of contributions made by interested parties, for example the pharmaceutical industry.

Professors, upper level undergraduates and graduate students in such fields as political science, journalism and law would find the information at opensecrets.com valuable.

An earlier version of this site was previously reviewed for C&RL News Internet Reviews by Doralyn H. Edwards, October 1998, Volume 59, Number 9, p709.-

Sarah Cogan
Eastern Michigan University Library

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