Category Archives: politics

The Contractor Food Web: Visualizing the flow of Recovery Act dollars to defense contractors

Network map of Dept. of Defense related Recovery Act contracts

Found a well-structured dataset on Recovery Act contracts at Created a network map for the Awards funded by Department of Defense (except military departments) category. Also serves as a crude user interface to the data. Clicking on contractor nodes links to full record with information about the contract.

Would love to build something like this for the whole dataset, or for the TARP funds. already does some flash-based geographic maps to show which states the money is (initially) ending up in.

(click for interactive version)
Cartogram recipient locations of defense-related Recovery Act contractors

UPDATE Feb 11, 2010

When working with the this data, I was very surprised to see a name I recognized jump off the screen. Nehalem River Dredging is small 2-6 person operation with a single boat based in my home town. Could they really be receiving a $47,150,000 contract with the Army Corps? Almost 50 million dollars!? That probably greater than the entire yearly economic output of the town. Since this data is known to have some highly-politicized problems (like the flap about the non-existent congressional districts) it seems like there may be some kind of error. My father called up the Port wheer the dredging is being done to investigate. Sure enough, they said there is a two decimal place error in the reported contract amount. It was actually $470,150. So I guess the message is take this data (which is self reported by recipients as I understand it) with a grain of salt, there is plenty of room for two-orders-magnitude errors to sneak in.

Oilmoney Redux

The main conference on Social Network Analysis was is in San Diego this year, so I decided to make a trip down. Was nice to step away from the screen and see old and new faces from the far-flung research community. Amusingly, the conference landed in the middle of spring break celebrations, so there were bearded academics wandering geekily around in crowds of drunken sunburnt 20-something revelers.

prezoilmoney movie placeholderI gave a presentation at the very tail end of the conference to demonstrate some features of the oilmoney website—including a presidential contribution movie, and bit of analysis on the data. Much of this will be familiar to anyone who has read these earlier posts, but the stat stuff is new.
Warning: the rest of this post is pretty geeky, read at your own risk ;-)

Continue reading Oilmoney Redux

Digging into’s Bill Endorsement Data

Diagram of bill supportersDan Newman, director of the money in politics watchdog/transparency site kindly shared some of their bill endorsement data for me to explore. In addition to providing an elegant interface for accessing California and U.S. Federal campaign contribution data and voting records, MAPLight’s interns do extensive research to determine various organizations positions on bills that are being voted on in Congress. These endorsement and opposition relationships can be thought of as ties linking the organizations to the various bills they take a position on. The ties can then be assembled to form—yup, you guessed it—networks of bills and their supporters. My hope is that giving the bill data a relational treatment might reveal some of the coalitions and give additional context for each organization’s position.
Continue reading Digging into’s Bill Endorsement Data

San Francisco Political Contributions

Closeup of SF 2008 political contribution networkI’m very interested in trying to figure out ways to map the political landscapes and power structures that are operating around us. I’d like to be able to see various organizations and political actors in the context of their allies, enemies, and supporters in order to understand where the political boundaries are between various factions.
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Network of ballot measure endorsements

Closeup of CA Proposition Endorsement network

It is election day! Fingers crossed…. ;-) Before today I was searching for various organizations’ endorsements of California ballot measures. Finally located some data, and was curious how it would appear as a network showing the organizations and the propositions they support. Was able to scrape data for University of Berkley’s IGS Library Ballot Measure Endorsement page (for Nov. 2008) and create a few network images.

Continue reading Network of ballot measure endorsements

Follow-the-oilmoney lives!

Well, it has not been officially launched yet, but the oil company campaign contribution site we’ve been working on for the last six months is live. It leaked out on blogs this week, and has been getting good reviews and tons of traffic. We are excited! The site is a project of Oil Change International and another collaboration between myself and Greg Michalec. It shows interactive network maps of campaign contributions to presidential races and members of congress. The same data is also shown in drillable tables, so you can go from a politician, to the contributing oil companies, all the way to the image of the original FEC filing. It also permits searching for congress members by name and constituent zip code.

Continue reading Follow-the-oilmoney lives!

Oil Networks, Advertising, Imaginary Data?

ChevronHarpersAdI found an interesting Chevron advertisement inside the back cover of the July 2007 issue of Harper’s magazine. Captioned “There are 193 countries in the world. None of them are energy independent.” it depicts an open notebook with clippings of a number of graphics and charts showing information about energy interdependence.
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MAPLight takes on congress

maplight video tour

This month Berkley-based non-profit expanded their coverage of the relationships between interest groups, legislators and votes to include data for US Congress. for Congress combines all campaign contributions to U.S. legislators with legislators’ votes on every bill, using official records from the Library of Congress web site and the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics ( The resulting database of bills, voting records, and campaign contributions powers the search engine at and enables people to see the links between dollars spent and votes cast in Washington D.C. [maplight press release]

Maplight is doing some serious legwork to augment the CRP data with industry positions on bills. They are also doing neat things with timelines so that the user can get a better idea of the relations between donations and key votes.

I took a quick stab at creating a network from some of their example California data on a Bottled Water Bill

Place holder for network map of bottle bill

Continue reading MAPLight takes on congress