How to Track the Money in Politics

New apps make it easy to find out the truth, track campaign spending, and identify secretive donors.

How to Track the Money in Politics Photo (cc) by Lomo-Cam

Who made that annoying political ad, and who paid for it? Most importantly, is it accurate? New apps and Web tools can help you find out.

The Huffington Post recently rounded up tech tools to track campaign ad funding – especially “Super PACs,” those political action committees empowered by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that lets corporations and unions donate as much money as they want in near anonymity. For phones, they found the Sunlight Foundation’s Ad Hawk and Glassy Media’s Super PAC App. Here’s how they work…

Both essentially do the same thing: They listen to the ad’s audio and identify it within their databases. Each app gives you the essentials about the super PAC (or other organization) funding the ad – how much money it’s taken in overall, how much it’s spent overall, and whether it supports Democrats or Republicans. For those looking for a brief description of an ad, Ad Hawk’s app offers that. For those looking to use social tools to weigh in on the ad and watch related ads, Super PAC App will do that. The latter also links to sites that include PolitiFact and FactCheck to verify claims made in ads.

If you don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to hold it up to the TV every time you want info about an organization, there are other options online, like OpenSecrets.org and ProPublica’s PAC Track. They display the money PACs have spent and who’s contributing money where.

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