Exploring the flow of money from lobbyists to politicians.
Last year, US$3.28 billion was spent on lobbying--more than double the amount spent just 15 years ago, US$1.44 billion in 1998 (opensecrets.org). There are currently over 12,000 lobbyists in Washington. Lobbying has played an important democratic function in US society since the founding of this country. Written into the constitution it ties into your right to petition the government.
At the most basic level, lobbying is the act of persuading someone with more decision-making power in a particular situation to take a particular course of action.
Lobbying is done by groups ranging from Amnesty International and Greenpeace, to Exxon Mobile and Goldman Sachs. It’s done by nonprofits and megaprofits alike, in promotion of non-partisan issues to polarizing campaigns.
The money has gotten so big that the gray area between what’s influencing an issue and what’s buying a vote isn’t always clear. Scandals date back to the 1870s, and to the construction of the transcontinental railroad to today’s Jack Abramoff Indian Casino scandal. Scandals know both sides of the aisle--engulfing even high profile, well-respected representatives such as Maxine Waters in the banking scandal of 2010. At the same time, lobbying is still a way to empower groups that have been traditionally left out of our political process. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, for example, filed suits in state and federal courts in the 1950s to challenge segregation laws.The constitution protects lobbying as the right to “petition the government for redress of a grievance.”
The sheer scope of lobbying today creates the need for a way to better track its influence and provide greater transparency into a process that often lives out of the public eye. We aim to be your eye into this complex and opaque web of influence. Is money playing a part in the political decisions that impact your life? How much? From whom? Into whose pockets? We give you the information. You decide.