recently directed our attention to a new project, called Congressional Closeup
, that seeks to uncover political narratives in "strange" voting patterns
by our elected officials through automated means. For example, in a demo
(covering a story from the last Congress), it looks at lobbying dollars and how that may have influenced a particular vote:
There was some strange behavior in Congress today as several Democrats went against their own party and voted with Republicans to table the Democrat sponsored Dorgan amendment to the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 (S.3217). The official purpose of Byron Dorgan [D-ND]'s amendment (according to the Library of Congress) is To ban naked credit default swaps.
At first glance, it seems like many of the rogue voters were influenced by lobbies.
For instance, a group of 3 Senators Sen. Dodd [D-CT], Sen. Carper [D-DE], and Sen. Johnson [D-SD], who voted with Republicans to table the amendment, have individually received more campaign contributions than other Senators (see Table 1 below).
Who knows how effective the tool will be, but it's nice to see more people trying to dig into the story (or stories) behind the story when it comes to voting -- especially when it comes to things like lobbying dollars. The project is being put together by a CS PhD student and it would be nice if it actually was effective at both uncovering important stories and also in making those stories known.