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Anomaly Explorer: Look for it from OpenSecrets

Notes from the 2013 Transparency Camp convention sponsored by the Sunlight Foundation indicate that some time during the next two weeks, OpenSecrets will be introducing an “Anomaly Detector.” That’s a neutral term, but the title of the presentation in which this tool was introduced shows its potential power: “Uncovering Corruption“. The tool will look for outliers in receipt of campaign contributions, as well as sponsors of unusual legislation. From camp notes:

Anomaly Explorer (https://www.opensecrets.org/resources/learn/anomalies.php) can allow visibility into instances where:

  • Lawmakers sponsoring legislation that was lobbied by only one company or other organization, and whose employees or PAC also donated to the sponsoring lawmakers.
  • Lawmakers receiving twice as much in contributions from their top donors as their next highest donors.
  • Lawmakers receiving twice as much in contributions from their top donor industries as their next highest donor industries.
  • Lawmakers receiving more than 50 percent of their itemized contributions from out of state.

The tool isn’t available to the public yet, but it should be quite useful when it appears. There are indications that OpenSecrets staffers have used the tool once already, to identify members of Congress who rely on out-of-state money to win elections.

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