This page shows you two things: What candidates stand for, and who is trying to influence them–which also helps you understand more about what they stand for.
What candidates and elected officials stand for. This is best learned not from their advertisements or interviews, but from their voting records. For candidate voting records, detailed breakdowns of the issues, and other facts, you can go to:
- Project Vote Smart’s Political Courage Test This is a questionnaire on most issues that Project Vote Smart asks members of Congress and others to give details of which initiatives they would actively support.
- For voting records of current candidates put the name of the candidate or your nine-digit zip code or full address in the red box at the top of the page. Project Vote Smart
- On the Issues Has some statements by candidates and officials on a wide variety of issues.
- What representatives stand for is usually influenced by where they get their money. For state officials, you can learn where their money is coming from. See www.opensecrets.org (Center for Responsive Politics) for national candidates and www.followthemoney.org (The Institute for Money in State Politics) for state candidates to search their databases.
- You can sign up for free for updates on key votes of your two senators and U.S. Representative. The emails are sent out by Congress.org, a nonpartisan news and information website dedicated to encouraging civic participation. Go here to get the emails: http://www.congress.org/congressorg/megavote/
It also helps to know how special interest groups are influencing candidates and elected officials.
Money plays a huge role in American politics. That’s the current reality. Large contributions must be reported to the Federal Election Commission. By making donations these PACs (political action committees) gain access to politicians—they are able to make their case for the legislation they want—but they legally cannot buy the politician’s stand. Nevertheless, because of the high costs of running campaigns it is essential for the politician’s long term “survival” to accept these large contributions. But knowing who made contributions to whom can help you. These reports can be accessed at:
http://www.opensecrets.org Lots of information, well organized, on contributions made at the national level. (Center for Responsive Politics)
http://www.fec.gov (Federal Election Commission information)
Institute on Money in State Politics (Follow the Money) A state-level searchable data base
Legistorm information on Congress such as database of Congressional Staff salaries, and database of privately financed trips taken by members of Congress and their staffers.
Project Vote Smart
Has information for many candidates. Search for a particular candidate or official in the red search box at the top of the home page. Then scroll down to the Campaign Finance section.