Browser Plugin Reveals Who Is Funding Your Congressperson


Money perpetually plays shenanigans in politics and it can be hard to keep track of who is funded by which organizations and lobbyists. 16-year-old self-taught coder Nicholas Rubin decided to make things a little bit easier by creating Greenhouse, a web browser plugin that will fetch campaign contribution data and display it on screen when you mouse over a Congressperson's name on a webpage. Rubin's motivation for creating the app: 

Exactly one hundred years ago, in Harper's Weekly, Louis Brandeis made the frequently quoted statement that "sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants." Brandeis's preceding sentence in the article may be less well known, but it is equally important: "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases." I created Greenhouse to shine light on a social and industrial disease of today: the undue influence of money in our Congress. This influence is everywhere, even if it is hidden. I aim to expose and publicize that disease through technology that puts important data where it is most useful, on websites where people read about the actions, or inaction, of members of Congress every day.

The app pulls data from OpenSecrets.org, and while it still needs a little tweaking - it sometimes mistakenly highlights close matches for names and doesn't always recognize names depending on a site's formatting - it's an immensely informative plugin for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.

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  1. This is encouraging. Glad to see the next generation putting technology to such good use. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by: bluedogjim | Jun 21, 2014 12:02:22 PM

  2. What an impressive guy!

    Posted by: trees | Jun 21, 2014 12:26:43 PM

  3. Nicholas Ribin is doing something terrifically important here. Putting the truth about money right up there where it can be easily seen. It will be consistently important that he gets it right every time. He must build an impeccable reputation for doing so. If so in time, short time, he will be a major source for invaluable assessments and important actions. He may also be putting his life at risk. Almost no one with great wealth wants to be clearly known or specifically targeted. Do it anyway Mr. Rubin, you can make yourself a force for the general good of a nation.

    Posted by: UFFDA | Jun 21, 2014 12:42:58 PM

  4. Give that young man the Nobel Prize. I hope he has a bright future. This plug-in is going to make a MAJOR difference in my electoral life and I hope of millions of voting Americans (until the reprobates in Congress--Democrats and Republicans with help from the reactionary Supreme Court--pass legislation to make such public information off-limits to the public, which they sure as hell will do).

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jun 21, 2014 1:21:58 PM

  5. Wonder if he could grab data from each state database on their government officials? This idea is ingenious and every one of these government officials should be afraid, very afraid.

    Posted by: Owen | Jun 21, 2014 6:39:28 PM

  6. What this could possibly lead to is public funding of election campaigns.

    Posted by: TB | Jun 22, 2014 6:57:29 AM

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