As you can probably guess, I'm a bit of an activist on the internet. My pet issues are net neutrality, inequality and patents. So I like to follow my politicians to see what they're up to and where they've been getting their campaign money. In elections, I have a strong tendency to vote for anyone other than the incumbent. We need new blood because the people in power now are having a hard time adapting to new ideas.
So I just happened upon an app that can help with understanding where my elected representatives stand. Or, more precisely, who's money they stand on when they speak, write legislation and vote. Yesterday, while just reading Facebook, I found news of a kid that has created an app to do just that: Greenhouse.
So I took it for a test drive on my Chrome browser at home. Greenhouse is a great tool for finding out how our politicians are funded. Here's how it works. First, install the plugin. Then open up your favorite political website like Politico, Talking Points Memo or even a news site like CNN.com. Find a story with a politician's name in it. They'll be easier to find because now they're highlighted in green.
Now roll your mouse over a highlighted name. A popup appears to show you a tally of industry money received as campaign contributions. Now you know the major industries that support your favorite congressman. The source of data is OpenSecrets.org, a respected source of campaign finance information. I think it's a nice app, but unfortunately, it doesn't cover state politicians. Maybe that's in the works.
One other feature is that the popup has a link to tell you if the representative has committed to fundamental campaign finance reform. Even if they haven't, I believe that reform is on the way. Slowly but surely, we'll find a way to solve the problem of money in politics. This is just one tool to help along the way.