Who's buying your Congressman?

When it comes to bills like SOPA and CISPA, money talks. A new site called SopaTrack shines the light on whose votes are for sale, and for how much.

One of the great things about the Internet is that it allows people with minimal resources to shine light in places that entities with greater power and influence would rather remain dark. It’s kind of the flip side of privacy, and it’s a good thing.

Today’s example of Web-inspired sunshine is SopaTrack, a site created by ex-Googler Randy Meech. This site follows the old private investigator’s creed: If want to find out the truth about anything, follow the money.

Using data collected by Maplight.org, SopaTrack shows you how campaign contributions may have influenced the votes of all 532 members of the United States Congress. Though inspired by the Stop Online Piracy Act, it applies to all bills proposed in the current session of Congress.

Essentially, SopaTrack tells you whether your elected officials voted with the money – in favor of bills that have garnered more political contributions from supporters than opponents – or against the money.

On average, our Congress votes with the money 73 percent of the time. Shocking, ain’t it?

Four US Congressfolk have perfect 100 percent records, which means they favor the bills that put more greenbacks in their campaign coffers every single time. They are Representative Mark Amodei (R-Nevada), Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut), and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

sopatrack - mark amodei-cropped.png

Ladies and gentlemen, please stand up and take a bow – just be careful that none of that money falls out of your pockets.

On the flipside, only four reps vote with the money 50 percent of the time or less. They are Rep. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-New York), Rep. Larry Kissell (D-North Carolina), and in the very last spot at number 532, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). Even then, though, Manchin still follows the Benjamins 46 percent of the time.

Of course, most of the time there’s money flowing on both sides – sometimes quite a lot of it -- and many of our esteemed elected officials get contributions from both. So it’s kind of a win-win for them. For us little folk, not so much.

How much money are we talking about? Let’s take the SOPA bill, otherwise known as HR 3261. That has yet to come up for a vote, thanks in no small part to the SOPA Internet “blackout” campaign last January.

SOPA supporters – folks like the entertainment industry, trade unions, and the tobacco industry – kicked in nearly $110 million in an attempt to get that wretched thing to pass. Opponents (the usual motley crew of civil rights groups, plus some high tech folks) managed to scrape together just over $12 million – a not inconsiderable sum for most bills, though chicken feed for this one.

SOPA sponsor Lamar Smith (R-Texas) received $411K from pro-SOPA contributors, $12K from opponents. I think we all know how his Texas toast is buttered.

And in case you’re wondering, the current tally for Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (HR 3523) is slightly less than $32 million from the groups that support it, and just $2.3 million against. Expect those numbers to shoot up as the battle over CISPA heats up.

There’s another old saying that applies: Money talks. But neither we, nor Congress, always have to do what it tells us to.

Got a question about social media? TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan may have the answer (and if not, he’ll make something up). Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter: @tynan_on_tech. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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