On March 1, 2015, MapLight celebrated a milestone: 10 years of shining light on our broken system of money-dominated politics.
Ten years ago, I was a disillusioned part-time activist frustrated that money made a bigger impact on how legislators voted than citizens’ voices did. This distortion wasn’t covered much in the news and didn’t register with many people as a fundamental problem we could work together to fix.
I started experimenting with political data, combining the money lawmakers receive with how they vote, sparking a new way of revealing the price we all pay for our broken political system. Working with my co-founders Jaleh Bisharat and Thomas Layton, MapLight grew from a tiny office in a rented spare bedroom to what is now a national organization exposing influence, affecting public debate, and helping to build the movement to fix our country.
When MapLight began, proving that special interest donations correlated to votes could take weeks of research for a single bill, leaving citizens in the dark. MapLight made it possible, for the first time ever, to unearth these connections with the click of a mouse—and opened a new era of exposing influence and achieving real-time accountability.
Since breaking new ground with our money and politics database in 2005, we have:
- Reached 300 million people with data exposing money’s influence on politics through over 10,000 news stories in hundreds of media outlets.
- Fielded 1,000 requests for custom money and politics data from journalists, activists, advocacy groups, and everyday citizens.
- Fueled citizen-led victories on foreclosure reform, payday lending, copyright policy, consumer protections, and more.
- Strengthened accountability campaigns on clean elections, net neutrality, fracking, the student debt crisis, government surveillance, and more.
- Launched two dozen powerful tools for investigating patterns of influence online.
- Won increased transparency for dark money, ballot measure interests,campaign contributions, and legislative votes in California.
- Empowered 1 million people with Voter’s Edge, the first nonpartisan online guide providing meaningful data to voters in all 50 states.
- Earned a James Madison Freedom of Information Award, a Knight-Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism,a World Affairs Council NextGen Changemakers: Civic Innovation Award, a UN World Summit Award, a NetSquared Innovation Award, and many more.
In the ten years since I co-founded MapLight, the money and politics reform movement has grown to national prominence. I am incredibly proud of the unique and critical role MapLight has played in raising the national consciousness and building the political climate necessary to remedy this fundamental flaw in our political system. As one of our supporters, you should be proud, too.
My deepest thanks to all of you—our financial supporters, volunteers, board members, data partners, dedicated staff team, and more. MapLight exists only because you want it to exist. Because you, and we, know that we can fix our country’s problems by working together.