Follow the money
It's a government site, but it's the result of a remarkable bipartisan effort by the conservative Heritage Foundation and the liberal group OMB Watch to make government more transparent and accountable, which culminated in Senate passage of a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., to create the site.
Combined with new databases on FEC reports and earmarks, we now have an unprecedented ability to follow the money trails that wind in and out of government. It isn't perfect -- it still takes a fair bit of legwork, and the databases aren't linked -- but it's far better than what existed (or rather, didn't exist) before.
One hitch is that you have to search by contractor name, which is usually a company, not a person. For instance, you need to know that Sen. Dianne Feinstein's husband, Richard Blum, owns Perini Corp. -- a construction contractor -- before you can plug the company name into the database and find out that the company lands millions of dollars worth of federal contracts every year: from a low of $24 million or so in 2002 to a high of $459 million in 2004 (and declining since).
But once you know that, you can freely dream up conspiracy theories that the contracts are somehow related to Feinstein's Senate perch.
There's also an "Assistance" tab, which lets you find out who are the recipients of federal grants, loans, etc. You can search by name, congressional district, type o recipient and other criteria.
So thank Santa for the gift and go investigate your favorite politician or company. I've added the link to my "Resources" list in the sidebar so it's easy to find.
spending, politics, midtopia