Campaign finance laws have made it easier for politicians to shadow donors, but despite a national push toward more transparency, most Americans remain unaware of who’s handing out cash to elect their local, state and federal lawmakers.
Which is why the new plug-in Greenhouse is an exciting development in helping citizens make connections between their elected officials and special interest groups or industries.
Created by 16-year-old Nick Rubin, Greenhouse collects data from the nonprofit Center of Responsive Politics project Opensecrets.org and lets a user track a politician’s funding portfolio simply by hovering over his or her name. Users can immediately see a scorecard for any member of Congress who pops up in an article or online site, breaking down not only which industries are supporting the candidate, but also how much money they give in total, as well as percentages of donations from individuals contributing less than $200.
“Even though I am only 16 years old, not quite old enough to vote, I am old enough to know that our political system desperately needs fixing,” the Seattle native said on the Greenhouse website.
Self-taught in computer coding, Rubin was in seventh grade when he first took interest in how money shapes politics. He pursued his idea after participating in a project on corporate personhood and hearing Harvard professor and campaign-finance activist Lawrence Lessig speak. According to Fast Company, Lessig consulted with Rubin on the launch of the beta version.
Since the plug-in went live in June, it’s amassed more than 41,000 users.
The project has garnered interest on both the left and right and helped illuminate an issue that’s important for American politics in general, regardless of ideology. As Greenhouse’s tagline states, “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.”
“What it signifies is that the influence of money on our government isn’t a partisan issue. Whether Democrat or Republican, we should all want a political system that is independent of the influence of big money and not dependent on endless cycles of fundraising from special interests,” Rubin said.
Indeed, it’s refreshing to see the next generation — especially one that is not even of voting age — taking interest in reforming the political process into one that all Americans can be proud of.
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