Online Accountability

Categories: Politics
Keith Ellison OpenCongress.jpg
Someone just installed a giant window into the corridors of power. The new website OpenCongress.org offers easy access to the entire voting records of America's representatives in Washington—something government websites never really managed to do. Now you can read bills and track their histories, run down campaign contributions, follow legislators in the news, and look up stats such as "Republican most often votes with" (for Democratic Representative Keith Ellison [pictured], one of the site's most viewed lawmakers, that would be fellow Minnesota Representative James Ramstad).

In theory, all this was online already. But the site's one-stop-browsing makes it easier than ever to connect the dots between dollars and votes. Two years ago, the currently tough-on-Mastercard Norm Coleman gave his "aye" to a reform bill making it harder for people with huge credit card debts to file for bankruptcy; the Minnesota Senator called it a "pro-consumer bill" with "overwhelming and bipartisan support in the Senate"—and, indeed, a quick search of OpenCongress.org confirms that just 25 Senators voted against the bill before it passed through the House to become law. One was California Democrat Barbara Boxer, whose own "Republican most often votes with" is—none other than Norm Coleman. No doubt, deeply held moral principles divided these two in this rare instance. But clicking through OpenCongress.org to the pair's respective profiles on the related OpenSecrets.org, you'll notice the RBC Financial Group ($20,625), U.S. Bancorp ($28,600), and Wells Fargo ($40,600) among Coleman's "top contributors." Boxer's list, on the other hand, looks comparatively light on commercial banking interests.

Hillary Clinton, whose No. 1 campaign contributor is Citigroup, Inc., courageously abstained from voting.


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