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The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) is a non-profit, nonpartisan research group based in Washington, D.C. that tracks the effects of money and lobbying on elections and public policy. It maintains a public online database of its information.
Their database OpenSecrets.org allows users to track federal campaign contributions and lobbying, by lobbying firms, individual lobbyists, industry, federal agency, and bills. Other resources include the personal financial disclosures of all members of the U.S. Congress, the president, and top members of the administration. Users can also search by ZIP codes to learn how their neighbors are allocating their political contributions.
Founded in 1983 by retired U.S. Senators Frank Church of Idaho (a Democrat) and Hugh Scott of Pennsylvania (a Republican), the Center for Responsive Politics aims to create a more educated voter, a more involved citizenry, and a more responsive government. In the 1980s they launched a "money-in-politics" project, whose outcome consisted of large, printed books. For example, their first book published in 1990 analyzed contributions by political action committees in the 1988 congressional elections in the space of 1,300 pages.
In 1996 the Center launched its online counterpart, OpenSecrets.org. It has won four Webby Awards (2001, 2002, 2006, 2007) for being the best politics site online. In 2010 OpenSecrets.org was named a Webby Official Honoree.
During the middle of the 2000s, the Center created a Revolving Door database that tracks former federal government officials that become lobbyists, and vice versa. Also established: a comprehensive database on federal lawmakers' personal finances, a database of political action committee money and campaign finance profiles of more than 120 business industries. In 2009 the center released a database linking federal earmarks to lobbying expenditures and a database detailing the state and federal campaign donations of thousands of corporations and special interest groups. In 2010 the Center produced an extensive section tracking the expenditures of outside organizations attempting to influence federal political races. Along with the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense, the Center oversees a project that tracks the campaign contributions and lobbying activity of various organizations receiving federal earmarks.
The OpenSecrets Blog is the Center's platform for original journalism produced by a small staff of reporters. In 2010 OpenSecrets.org published more than 600 articles on a range of subjects, including the oil and gas industry, the 2010 midterm elections, journalists' political donation trends, and an internal JPMorgan Chase memo detailing its political outlook. In 2009 they reported on political donations of NFL football teams and how local and state governments use taxpayer money to lobby the federal government. Articles frequently touch upon the rise of independent political spending, the demise of self-funded candidates, and the increase in federal lobbying. Their two reports on federal health care reform and on financial reform have been cited in the press dozens of times throughout 2009 and 2010. In 2009 Project Censored honored their blog for covering three of the 25 most underreported news stories of the year. American University in Washington, D.C. included OpenSecrets.org on its 2010 list of organizations that compose the "new journalism ecosystem".
Support for the Center comes from a combination of foundation grants, individual contributions and payments from custom research requests. Major donors include the Sunlight Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Open Society Institute, the Joyce Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. The Center does not accept contributions from businesses, trade associations, or labor unions. According to the organization's 2007 990 form, it had just over $1 million in revenue and net assets of $1.6 million.
Sheila Krumholz has been the Center's executive director since December 2006, having served for eight years as the Center's research director. She first joined the organization in 1989 and served as the assistant editor of the first edition of the printed volume Open Secrets. Information Technology Director Susan Alger and current Research Director Jihan Andoni have both worked for the Center since 1999. Communications Director Dave Levinthal, who serves as the Center's spokesman and edits the OpenSecrets Blog, joined in 2009 after working for seven years as a political reporter at The Dallas Morning News.
Krumholz and Levinthal regularly appear as commentators and analysts on national news networks and programs, including CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, National Public Radio, Democracy Now!, and the BBC. Hundreds of newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and USA Today, have cited the Center's data and quoted its directors. On October 30, 2007 the former communications director Massie Ritsch was featured on the Colbert Report.