Time again for our Website of the Week, when we showcase interesting and innovative online destinations.
The 2008 U.S. presidential election is still more than a year away but, as you may have heard, the election campaign has been going on for months. More than ever before, voters are using the Internet to inform themselves about the issues, the candidates, and how the candidates are financing their campaigns.
RITSCH: "OpenSecrets.org is the online incarnation of a project that the Center for Responsive Politics has been doing for about two decades now: following the money in U.S. elections, figuring out who's financing U.S. politicians and to what extent, and what they might be getting in return for their money."
Spokesman Massie Ritsch says OpenSecrets.org gets its information from the federal government, which collects the data. The Federal Election Commission has much of this information on its website, but Ritsch says OpenSecrets.org provides added value to the raw data by, for example, classifying contributions by industry.
RITSCH: "And that's important because if you're looking at drug prices or the loan rates for students attending universities, you really need to know how the industries that are involved in those issues have supported politicians. And that's the work that we do, is aggregating the money from millions of donations by industry, by geography, and a host of other ways, and putting it up in a really user-friendly format."
OpenSecrets.org won its fourth Webby award this year as Best Politics Site on the Internet, in part, perhaps, because the site tracks not just presidential and congressional candidates, but state and local election contributions, too. Massie Ritsch says government disclosure laws in the United States, combined with easy Web access, make this a unique resource.
RITSCH: "There are many other countries that collect the information, but from my experience and talking to people, usually that information is compiled on paper and collected and stored in one government building, and unless you're there you don't have access to it. Through our website, OpenSecrets.org, as well as the government's website, people can get to this information no matter where they are."
Helping Americans "follow the money" in politics, our Website of the Week is OpenSecrets.org, or get the link from our site, voanews.com.