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Sunlight Foundation Launches Poligraft, Bringing New Transparency To Political Reporting

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Back in May, we made note of how the Sunlight Foundation, wholeheartedly dedicated to jailbreaking the hidden connections between money and power, had developed a unique way to watch important Congressional hearings -- using a dynamic contextual data stream that ran live alongside the televised coverage enabling viewers to see at a glance what major industries contributed how much money to what legislators, so you were always in touch with the level of whoring involved.

Now, Sunlight's back with Poligraft, "a new website and utility that allows anyone to uncover levels of influence in federal and state-level politics and the news coverage of it."

To put it simply, it's cherry. I'll let Sunlight explain:

Using data from Sunlight's TransparencyData.com and its upcoming Influence Explorer site, Poligraft allows you to connect the dots between money and politics in Congress and in state offices.

Poligraft is a tool for journalists, researchers and concerned voters. Simply paste the URL or text of a news article, blog post or press release and Poligraft will create an enhanced view of the interconnections between people, organizations and relationships described within it. Users can then click on the name of a member of Congress to view his or her campaign coffer and donors. Select a mentioned company and see how much its employees and PAC donated to which candidates. View the profile of a lobbyist and see his or her political contributions. You can also add a Poligraft bookmarklet to your Internet browser toolbar and run any webpage through the utility.

"Poligraft was designed to help detect the multiple layers of influence that are present in our political process in one fell swoop. By using publicly available data, Sunlight has developed an online tool that creates a snapshot of the influence web in Congress," said Ellen Miller, executive director and co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation.

The backbone of Poligraft is TransparencyData.com, a central repository for federal lobbyist registrations, federal grant, and federal and state campaign contributions. Sunlight launched TransparencyData.com in June.

Sunlight provides some examples of how it works. Pop the URL of, say, this Politico article, "Senate Democrats punt on spill bill," into Poligraft, and the site spits back all sorts of useful information. First, it digs through the names in the piece, and draws back available data pertaining to campaign contributions:

Next, it reveals the "Points of Influence," or "Graphs for politicians represent received campaign contributions, while graphs for organizations represent aggregate campaign contributions made":

[Note: the above image is just a selection of the available data provided by Poligraft, for complete results, click here.]

Click on a "learn more" link, and that takes you further into the web of connections -- you learn whom a lobbyist worked for and to whom he funneled money, and what major industries own your Congressperson's soul.

So, if you are a fan of transparency, or quality journalism, or not being lied to all the time by a network of politicians on the take and the deep-pocketed grifters who enable them, this is definitely a tool you'll want to use constantly.

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