While it’s easy and almost safe to assume that most of today’s politicians take large donations from dubious corporate interests, given the fact that we live in an oligarchy and all inquiring minds still want to keep track of who’s taking money from big oil, big pharma, big defense contractors, you name it.
Well, exposing the money behind the members of Congress has gotten a lot easier thanks to a new browser plugin called Greenhouse. The extension (which is available for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari) was created by a 16-year-old Seattle high school student named Nicholas Rubin, and it’s pretty ingenious.
In a recent interview with Vice Media, Rubin talked about how he came up with the idea for the app:
VICE: Hi, Nick. So how did you come up with the idea for Greenhouse?
Nick Rubin: Back in seventh grade, I gave a presentation on corporate personhood, and ever since then I’ve been really interested in that issue. I think the one problem is that the sources of income for members of congress haven’t been simple and easily accessible when people have needed it. More recently, I’ve been teaching myself how to code, and I thought that something like Greenhouse that puts the data at people’s fingertips would be a perfect solution. It really is the intersection of these two passions of mine—coding and politics. I made it after school and on weekends on my computer.
Why the name?
Well, green is the color of money in the US, and house refers to the two houses of Congress [the Senate and House of Representatives]. The name also implies transparency; greenhouses are see through and they are built to help things thrive.
Where did you get the information on the politician’s donations?
It uses the data from the last full election cycle which was 2012. This is simply because it’s just the most complete set of data that we have. But the browser does provide access to the most up to date 2014 information by just clicking the name of the politician on the top of the window or the OpenSecrets.org link in the popup. So the 2014 data is just one click away.
I’m intending to update the data as a whole later in the election cycle as the 2014 contributions are more complete—these are updates I’m currently working on—as well as thinking of other ways I can expand the tool.
Interesting clever young man. I wonder what he will come up with next.
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