We're celebrating Sunshine Week by combing through open record searches and turning up some useful, strange and otherwise overlooked info. Today, we follow the money — specifically, money donated from Big corporations to local beneficiaries. Here are three examples of what we found:
- ProPublica runs Dollars for Docs, a database that brings to light what drug companies pay to doctors and other health officials. For years this information was kept secret, but when 12 companies began publicizing the data (in some cases because of legal settlements), ProPublica put it all in one place. You can narrow your search to any city in Montana. We found 10 doctors listed in Missoula who have received more than $135,000.
- Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker takes filings under the Foreign Agent Registration Act, digitizes them, and makes them easy to search. The filings contain information on efforts by foreign governments and organizations to influence U.S. policy on trade, taxation, foreign aid, appropriations, human rights and national security—and this database breaks the data down for each lobby firm, country, issue and D.C. representative. Wanna see who Sen. Tester's policy advisor spoke with regarding the U.S.- Korea free trade agreement? It's there, as well as a record of the same lobbying firm donating $1,500 to Tester's campaign a year earlier.
Update: Aaron Murphy from Sen. Tester's campaign called to clarify a few points in this story. Tester's policy advisor, not Tester himself, spoke with the lobbyist firm. The donation also came a year before the phone call. We updated the story to reflect these points. Finally, Murphy wanted to make clear that Tester voted against the Korean free trade agreement.
Sunshine Week is a national initiative to promote a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. We're linking to free online databases all week.