Bitching about Albany just got about a hundred times easier with the debut of Project Sunlight‘s searchable online database this week. Depending on your level of political geekery and/or civic rage, you’ll want to take a while to look through the raw data about burning questions you’ve always wanted to know, such as… How much money did your local Assemblyman get from Daddy or his connections? (answer: at least $28,000) How much money did NYRI spend on lobbyists this year? ($181,096.00) etc. And needless to say, the Member Items database is going to provide hours and hours of fun.
But there are many other unanswered questions. Paging through the database is sort of like picking up a rock and observing the li’l critters underneath. For instance, what is the WNY Safari Club, and why do they have a PAC? From a quick glance at their website, it would appear that they hunt and eat Western New York’s officially nonexistent and certainly endangered cougar population. (Hm, that can’t be right; maybe I should find out more about them.) And does “Good Citizens for Good Government” imply that the rest of us are bad citizens? Who are these people who are bankrolling America’s Most Dysfunctional Legislature with their nickels and dimes?
I’m already a little disappointed that, for example, an elected official’s campaign contributions are not tallied (i.e., if one would like to easily figure out the percentage of Daddy’s contributions as part of the whole haul). There are probably any number of ways you could slice, dice and fricassee this data and I’m sure that Project Sunlight will come up with them eventually. However, this tool won’t catch on unless it gets used. I encourage state-watching bloggers to check in early and often. This is a real gift, however crude it may be at the moment. Thanks, Santa!