'Poligraft' Tool Lets You Follow the Money From Your Browser

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A new tool from the Sunlight Foundation embeds campaign finance information right into online news stories. Poligraft automatically exposes financial relationships between people and organizations, a function that would have required deep journalistic digging just a few years ago.

I ran a few of our political stories through Poligraft and not every one pulled up much interesting. But sometimes, the tool does reveal an important piece of context.

Take our recent story about John McCain's battle to find out more information about a satellite program that's currently administered by Lockheed Martin. Run the story through Poligraft and it highlights John McCain and Lockheed Martin, then calls up a campaign finance database to tell you how much money ($131,475) the company has given to the politician.

Campaign finance information has long been publicly accessible online, but it's rarely right at your fingertips when you might want it. Sunlight has effectively shrunk the distance between the data and the news -- and we love it.

There's even a browser bookmarklet that lets you follow the money with a single click.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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