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Related Categories: California | Government & Elections
New database on money and politics
by J. Wheeler
Tuesday Oct 17th, 2006 11:45 PM launches today! (11/17/2006).
MAPlight is a new, nonpartisan searchable online database that correlates money paid by specific interest groups to specific politicians with the way those politicians vote on bills support or opposed by those groups. In other words, it allows ordinary citizens, journalists, political watchdogs, and anyone and everyone else to find out in a few seconds time who is paying the campaign bills for their statewide representatives and whether getting those bills paid has an effect on the way their representative votes.

The database currently contains information on bills up to the 2001-2004 sessions and is being updated to include the 2005 session now.

As an example of the type of information available, a search for "chamber of commerce" reveals the following:

Total contributions:
$119,332 from 2001-2004 to members of the 2003-2004 legislature, Gray Davis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
24% pass rate. They supported 94 bills, 23 became law.
75% kill rate. They opposed 123 bills, 92 did not become law.

Top 10 recipients of campaign contributions from Chambers of commerce:
Recipient Amount Legislator voted with this interest
Dick Ackerman $6,800 16% (18 out of 110 bills)
Guy Houston $5,200 27% (30 out of 110 bills)
Abel Maldonado $4,700 25% (27 out of 108 bills)
Bonnie Garcia $4,450 26% (27 out of 102 bills)
S. Joseph Simitian $4,200 29% (30 out of 104 bills)
Kevin McCarthy $4,100 20% (20 out of 101 bills)
Mark Ridley-Thomas $3,700 27% (35 out of 130 bills)
Mark Wyland $3,700 25% (29 out of 115 bills)
Don Perata $3,600 24% (25 out of 105 bills)
Shirley Horton $3,550 26% (30 out of 114 bills)

How were these voting percentages calculated? Here is an example:

Chambers of commerce supported or opposed 217 bills in the 2001-2004 legislative session. Of these bills, Dick Ackerman, a legislator, cast votes on 110 of them.

He voted in the same direction as Chambers of commerce on 18 bills, 16% of the time.

If an interest (such as Chambers of commerce) supports a bill and the legislator votes Yes, this is counted as vote in the same direction as the interest. If an interest opposes a bill and the legislator votes No, this is also counted as vote in the same direction as the interest. We examine the last substantive vote on each bill to determine a legislator's position.

To learn more about this new resource, visit

MAPlight is a project of the Forum on Money and Politics.

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