Voter Tools and Resources for 2012: Political Ad Sleuth

In the three weeks from now until Election Day, I’m going to focus on great online tools and resources for voters. I will be highlighted tools and sites that provide information on candidates and their positions, enables people to vote by finding their polling places, how to register in same-day registration states, and any other resources that I think are of broad interest.

The best place to begin is with the fantastically fun Political Ad Sleuth sponsored by the Sunlight Foundation in partnership with FreePress. Individuals register on the site to help crowdsource the source of political ads. There has been an avalanche of political ads broadcast this year the origins of which (meaning who paid for the ad) are hard to ascertain (thanks Supreme Court for the Citizens United decision!) FreePress provides guidelines for citizens to go to local TV stations and access their Issues/Programs Lists for the past two quarters. These files will contain the date(s) and time(s) that the advertising aired, the rate charged and the name of the candidate referenced. The file should also contain detailed information about who purchased the advertisement (i.e., a campaign, a PAC, a Super PAC or a third-party organization.

Political Ad Sleuths will upload this information to the database Sunlight is creating online to provide a nationwide picture of who is buying what ads for whom and airing them when. Only then will a more complete picture emerge of the financing for political candidates and issues across the country.

Here is a sample of what the resulting database looks like:

That’s sure putting some Sunlight and disinfectant on the dark shadowy corners of political communications!



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Allison Fine

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