Do our representatives truly represent us, the population?
When a nation of 300 million reduces itself to 1 president, 100 senators and 435 Representatives in the House, there will be great disagreement as to whether the interests of our representatives reflect the interests of its citizens. But what’s the alternative — every citizen voting on every issue? It just doesn’t scale. Let’s examine how an increase in the transparency of capital flow to political campaigns can improve the election process.
— Represent.Us (@RepresentDotUs) March 9, 2015
When I read a stat like this, I think, “is investment in political campaigns just an accurate predictor of the population’s demands, or is access to capital creating an unfair advantage in political campaigns?” The truth is, I’m not informed enough to know the answer, and it’s impossible to arrive at a conclusion until we have a more complete understanding of the flow of capital to political campaigns.
Transparency with regards to the funding of political campaigns is a loaded issue, and one that has yet to be resolved, but I want to highlight two resources who are closing the gap for the common citizen: MapLight and Greenhouse.
MapLight, founded by Daniel G. Newman, takes a data driven approach to influencer marketing in the political space. By giving journalists, bloggers, and concerned citizens greater access to campaign contribution data and trends, they aim to increase the responsiveness of public officials to the interests of the electorate. Here is their approach in a brief video:
Greenhouse’s homepage inspired the title of this post: “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” This remarkable browser plugin, with campaign contribution data powered by OpenSecrets.org, educates online readers on who funds politicians, and was built by socially conscious 16 year old, Nick Rubin. With this browser plugin enabled, a dropdown of political funders becomes visible when hovering over a politician’s name on the internet. Imagine if TV was this transparent when a politician spoke?
Greenhouse is available for free download here.
It’s not about political affiliation; it’s about the effect of capital affiliation. It’s about being an accurately informed voter. For a moment, think about the Nascar driver. The logos he wears and what he drives indicate who pays for his gas, mortgage, investments, and frames a general understanding of the interests he is representing in his or her public appearances. With the support of the people comes a responsibility to the people.
I’m not alone. We’re not alone. Many people wonder, what would the world look like if politicians were required to present themselves with the transparency of a Nascar driver? For better or worse, there’s an honesty to the Nascar driver’s approach to capital contributions…
Unfortunately, there is no perfect solution, but as Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Use the resources available to you to gauge whether the politician’s perspective is inspired by money or scaled by money. We are living in a world where the information is increasingly available and accessible; you have to be smart about how you filter and make sense of that information. Much thanks to Daniel Newman and Nick Rubin for creating tools that aptly inform the citizen.
Will you be the one to make the next remarkable resource that closes the information gap between political campaigns and the flow of capital?