Nicholas Rubin is a 16-year old self-taught computer programmer from Seattle, Washington. He is also the inventor of Greenhouse, a new browser plugin that lets you know exactly where politicians get their campaign funding from.
When the plugin is active, the names of House or Senate members on any given webpage are highlighted. All you have to do is hover your mouse over the name of a politician, and a box will pop up showing all the industries and groups that contributed funds to their campaign, as well as how much the politician got from each sector.
The box also shows you what percentage of their contributions came from small donors (contributions of less than $200), and let’s you know whether or not they are in favor of reforming our relatively seedy campaign finance system.
Here’s the statement that Nicholas released with the plugin:
“It is my hope that providing increased transparency around the amount and source of funding of our elected representatives may play a small role in educating citizens and promoting change. If you use the extension when reading about a Congressional vote on energy policy, for example, maybe you’ll discover that a sponsor of a bill has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the oil and gas industry. Or maybe you’ll learn that the top donors to a member of Congress who opposes tort reform are lawyers and law firms. I use data from the last full election cycle (2012) and plan to update it as more relevant data becomes available. Special thanks to OpenSecrets.org for providing access to that data.
The motto of Greenhouse is: “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.” What it signifies is that the influence of money on our government isn’t a partisan issue. Whether Democrat or Republican, we should all want a political system that is independent of the influence of big money and not dependent on endless cycles of fundraising from special interests. The United States of America was founded to serve individuals, not big interests or big industries. Yet every year we seem to move farther and farther away from our Founders’ vision.”
I must say this is one of the best ideas I have personally ever seen to combat against the influence of special interest groups on our political system.
For years, politicians have pretended to personally care about issues when, more often than not, the truth is that they were bribed by that industry (through campaign finance) to make decisions that would help the industry.
I don’t think this will stop politicians from accepting money from big business, but at the very least, it will make them think twice about who they get those contributions from.
You can download the Greenhouse plugin for free here. (NOTE: because of the plugins popularity, Greenhouse’s homepage was down when this story was published, but I’m sure they will have it back up and running soon.)