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

By Alexis C. Madrigal
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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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/08/poligraft-tool-lets-you-follow-the-money-from-your-browser/60922/