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Mashups, Wikis Let Consumers Follow the Money

  • Wired, Thursday, April 26, 2007 1:13 PM
Mashups and wiki-based programs are making it easier for everyday consumers to keep an eye on the flow of special-interest money in Washington. Beware politicians; custom data mashups allow the layman to cross-reference public databases containing information about public spending and lobbying dollars to votes cast in Congress.

For example, MapLight.org, a nonpartisan Web site tracking California legislature, used these tools to show how the logging industry, which opposed a bill in California that would have stopped wood-cutting in certain forest areas, gave nearly twice as much money to politicians as environmental groups. Guess who won? Yep. Next month, MapLight plans to expand its service to include data from Congress.

New tools like mashups and wikis are providing an unprecedented level of transparency, exposing patterns that would have otherwise been invisible to ordinary voters. Anyone from bloggers to activists to students can now quickly drill down the correlation between special-interest money and a politician's vote.

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