BY ANNE SHERWOOD — State Legislatures are now in full swing, and addressing controversial legislation head on is at the top of lawmakers’ priority list.
Although a final vote often gets the media attention, the real action occurs in legislative committee proceedings, where political donors and lobbyists do most of their work to influence legislation.
The Legislative Committee Analysis Tool (L-CAT) on FollowTheMoney.org displays legislative committee rosters alongside campaign donor data. This data mash-up provided by the National Institute on Money in State Politics and Project Vote Smart allows citizens to see which special interests have (or don’t have) political-donation relationships with lawmakers who sit on influential committees; committees that have the power to pass laws that directly affect these interests.
“Major legislative victories are won in the committees,” said Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, whose Web site is FollowTheMoney.org.
“Powerful political players know that legislative committees are where they can affect legislation, good or bad, often with little public input. We are arming citizens with powerful information that can be used to counter the well-heeled special-interest lobbyists.”
States that have updated L-CAT rosters are CA, CO, ME, NV, OH, OK, WI, WY, AZ, HI, PA and UT. For example, a quick glance at who contributed to the election campaigns of members of the Pennsylvania House’s Insurance Committee illuminates some noteworthy facts.
Lawyers and lobbyists were the biggest contributors to members of all committees, but the Insurance Committee received most of their attention.
Lawyers and lobbyists gave a total of $305,653 to all members, with 39 percent ($118,842) of that going to Representative Josh Shapiro.
Lobbying and public relations firm Greenlee Partners alone gave to 19 of the committee’s 25 members. Interested in what’s happening in your state? Click on your state for access to your state’s committees.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics collects and analyzes campaign contribution information on state-level candidates, political party committees, and ballot committees.
The data for these twelve states is nearly complete and committee rosters are already in place. In coming weeks more states will be added to the list.
Explore the free, searchable database of contributions online at FollowTheMoney.org. Watch for more information on your state as the legislative session continues.
Anne Sherwood is the Communications Specialist for the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org