OpenSecrets.org: Your portal to our corrupt national reality

Todd Hawes

Being mocked in the eighth grade is rough, but certainly not exceptional. Being mocked for publicly espousing love for Ralph Nader on the morning of the 2000 U.S. Presidential election is not only rough and exceptional, it’s revealing.

I proudly wore a Nader T-shirt on the day for which Nader would be hated the most he’s ever been hated. And Nader is in a select league which counts Judas, Walter Cromwell and Clay Aiken as members, among others. As of that fateful day, Nader was public enemy number one, in a different sense than he had ever been.

But I, for one, still love the guy. The fact that I was mocked that day, and continue to be so treated, reveals a disturbing fact about American politics, a fact which first drew me to Nader, even when I couldn’t vote: The American people have no idea what they’re up against, and don’t appear to care.

I had a vague sense as an eighth grader (politely instilled by my otherwise politically mainstream parents) that the share of power in the U.S. is not where we are told, and hasn’t been for a long time. That sense is now completely confirmed fact.
We are an ostensibly democratic country which continues, time and time again, unaware of the reality, to vote for candidates that are shamelessly made and promoted by ostensibly private corporations.

All of this leads me to make a suggestion to every single person who may read this article. Before voting for Obama, McCain, Clinton, or Huckabee (unlikely), go to a Web site called opensecrets.org. Yes, that’s .org for those of you whose interest in celebrities’ dirty laundry was piqued; sorry.

In fact, before you even get excited about a candidate and tell all your friends that you’re cool now because you love him (him = Obama of course), go to opensecrets.org. If you want to vote for Ron Paul or Mike Gravel, or any of the list of legitimate public servants, don’t waste the bandwidth.

Then again, they’ve all been pushed out for not being whores, so check it out anyway, just so you have some experience with the political equivalent of choosing between Wendy’s and Arby’s. Actually, since those vaunted establishments of quality eats are at least legitimate businesses, a more apt metaphor might be the choice between being gifted a pair of concrete shoes by Al Capone or getting beheaded by Blackbeard’s sword.

Clearly, I feel strongly about what I see as the perverse nature of our political reality. A distinct and refreshing aspect about opensecrets.org, however, is that it is entirely dispassionate. The vast majority of the information we receive about politics is politicized, and this coercive material forms the entire perspective for much of the voting populace.

The site, managed by the D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics, simply collects, arranges and collates the financial data of political campaigns nationwide. The Center’s mission statement is as follows:

“The Center for Responsive Politics is a non-partisan, non-profit research group based in Washington, D.C. that tracks money in politics and its effect on elections and public policy. The Center conducts computer-based research on campaign finance issues for the news media, academics, activists and the public at large. The Center’s work is aimed at creating a more educated voter, an involved citizenry and a more responsive government.”

Imagine that. A media outlet which provides a valuable service: educating voters, not merely feeding them two polarities and watching the massive game of Red-Rover which ensues. So, please, for the sake of your education as a citizen, check out opensecrets.org.

You can look up the financial data on candidates in which your interested, see which corporations and PACs have donated to which campaigns, even type in your rich uncle’s name to see just how much cash he spends on x politician instead of you. There’s hope yet, everybody; may not one more eighth grader suffer for the ignorance of a nation.