Now, I don’t by any means mean to keep touting my own horn or anything, but as a matter of keeping readers up to date about news related to GovTrack, it happens that I keep having to point out where a bit of credit is due to GovTrack.
David Pogue of the New York Times of ‘s new money-meets-votes interface for the U.S. Congress. (They have been doing California state data up till now.) Pogue writes:
“It’s a new Web site with a very simple mission: to correlate lawmakers’ voting records with the money they’ve accepted from special-interest groups . . . [N]obody has ever revealed the relationship between money given and votes cast to quite such a startling effect.”
MAPLight gets its voting records and legislation database from GovTrack. So when Pogue writes:
“On the other hand, it’s painstakingly non-partisan. And it uses very good data”
I’ll just pretend he knows MAPLight uses some data from GovTrack, and knows about GovTrack, and will take it as a compliment. (Actually he was referring to OpenSecrets.org.)
I like MAPLight, in principle. Unfortunately, I think their presentation is highly misleading, grossly misrepresenting the impact of money in votes, and enough so to trick Pogue into thinking that there was a big causal
relation, or even a noteworthy correlational relation implicated on the page he viewed. Economists and political scientists study these things carefully, and from what (little) I’ve read about it, it would seem that when carefully studied, the relationship between money and congressmen’s votes is fairly small, in that it is actually difficult to find and not something you can see from a simple bar graph, although indeed the relationship probably exists.