Follow the (oil) money

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One of the great perks of working for the Sunlight Foundation is finding out about great new tools for increasing transparency in the political process. These tools range from OpenSecrets, which allows you to find out how money is impacting the electoral process, to Open Congress, where you can find info on the latest bills.

Sometimes, however, somebody develops a tool that lets you bring it all together. One example is Follow the Oil Money. Here, you can track not only how much money the oil and gas industry is giving individual members, but you can also check a member’s record on votes on energy legislation. Or, as my boss wrote:

Follow the Oil Money isn’t just a cool new tool. It presents some striking evidence to the potential connection between dollars and votes.

So let’s take it for a test drive, with, say, Rep. Steve Pearce? Here are the contributions he’s received from oil and gas interests since 2000:

Follow the Oil Money: Steve Pearce Relationship View

Turns out, according to Follow the Oil Money (which relies on data from Federal Election Commission records), Rep. Pearce received $421,840 in oil and gas money campaign contributions between 2000 and 2008.

“Well,” you ask, “don’t we already know that Pearce is a huge recipient of oil and gas money?” Of course! But Follow the Oil Money, as I said, ties it all together:

Pearce Oil and Gas voting record

If you click through, you can see Rep. Pearce ranked No. 5 on the list of House members (based on the percentage of oil and gas contributions they receive). He also holds the distinction of being the only member on the list in the top 50 to vote in lock-step with oil and gas interests 100 percent of the time.

You can find information on the rest of New Mexico’s Congressional delegation at the site, and more information on individual donations and the votes used to develop the record as well.

MapLight fundraising updates

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It looks like MapLight has finally added a slew of candidates from New Mexico to their database. I’ve got four MapLight widgets on the sidebar, broken down by the Senate race and congressional district, and you can see that Rep. Heather Wilson is beating both Rep. Tom Udall and Rep. Steve Pearce in the money game:

However, while Wilson and Pearce are spending cash fighting for the Republican nomination, Udall can relax a bit and save his dough for the general election.

Meanwhile, Martin Heinrich, Harry Teague and Don Wiviott are leading in fundraising for the first, second, and third congressional districts, respectfully.

The widgets will remain there on the right throughout the 2008 election cycle, so you can always check to see how much money the candidates have raised.

Haussamen: Pearce campaigning with taxpayers’ money

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U.S. Rep. Steve Pearce, R-N.M., has violated the spirit of a federal rule prohibiting mass mailings with public money to constituents in the 90 days before an election.

In doing so, he’s used taxpayer dollars to campaign for re-election.

Pearce’s congressional office recently sent out more than 4,800 letters to constituents about the “scourge” of methamphetamine use, according to the Albuquerque Journal. The letters touted Pearce’s own efforts to deal with the problem.

So, what’s the problem? Read on:

A federal rule prohibits House members from sending out mass mailings of 500 pieces or more in the 90 days before an election. The intent is obviously to keep House members from abusing taxpayer money.

Pearce found a loophole, and he disregarded the intent of the law.

Pearce actually sent 11 different letters, not one, and mailed them out in batches of fewer than 500, his communications director, David Host, told the Journal. The 11 letters were identical through the first five paragraphs. The final paragraph differed from town to town to reflect the date and time Pearce would appear there.

So, Host told the Journal, he sent, for example, 478 letters to Alamogordo, 480 to Silver City and 485 to Artesia. According to the Journal, Republican and Democratic members of the Committee on House Administration, which includes the Franking Commission that oversees this sort of thing, told the Journal that Pearce appears to have complied with the rule.

That’s bad enough, but according to the NY Times Election Guide, Pearce raised $1,338,879 for this race, and has $624,328 cash on hand. Why does a sitting U.S. congressman — who’s leading in the polls and has more than half-a-million dollars in the bank — need to use taxpayer money for campaign purposes?