DollarTrail.org: Exposing the Effects of $$ in Washington
DollarTrail.org: Exposing the Effects of $$ in Washington
A not-for-profit project to expose money's effect on decision making in Washington.
A not-for-profit project to expose money's effect on decision making in Washington. Read more
About this project
Money in Washington? So What!
Ever wonder why Congress can't seem to get anything of value accomplished? The answer almost always leads back to money.
Hot button political issues wear cloaks of religion, morality, and other emotionally charged dogma. But if you pare away the layers, you'll find that our politicians are beholden, first and foremost, to those who buy them into office.
Dollar Trail Does the Hard Work For You
Ever tried to get at a politician's money story on your own? Data is hard to find. When you do find it, it's unclear. It's nearly impossible to make sense of. And who has that kind of time to begin with? Dollar Trail will gather that information for you, and distill it into something digestible.
What Exactly Does All The Money Buy?
Where does the money come from? Where does it go? What does one get for $150k to a senator? $5k to a congressman? And how does that impact me?
The answers to these questions are elusive. And they're exactly the sort of information our product aims to clarify and share.
At Dollar Trail we believe that once the information is illuminated in a way that resonates with the American public, the status quo will fall to the wayside, creating the space for change.
Dollar Trail’s Long Term Goal is to Become the Web's Leading Resource on Campaign Finance Information
Trailblazing sites that focus on money-in-politics have done lots of good work bringing information into the public consciousness. What these other products lack, however, is humanity. Dollar Trail makes up for that in spades.
Much of the information is complicated. Hidden. One point of fact complicates another, and makes the full picture difficult to ascertain. What's out there now is raw. Complicated. Unmanageable.
Our product provides a platform. We lean neither left or right. Our mission is to share knowledge, insight, and information.
To learn more about our inspiration and our mission, visit our website.
We'll Deliver the Answers in a Fun Little Package
We'll make it easy. Our product is fun, and might even make you laugh from time to time. That's because our tone is conversational. We'll keep it simple without patronizing.
We're Uniquely Qualified
I'm an internet professional with loads of experience. I learned the business of new media from industry leasers. Our writers and designers know their crafts, and believe in our mission.
We plan to use the best of what the web has to offer to bring this information into American homes in a way that will resonate, stick, and get passed around. From technology, to video, to smart and engaging writing, our team has the whole package.
In a Democracy, Money Should Not Be Able to Buy Influence
A government of, for, and by the American people has become an obsolete concept. The core of our great American democracy is at a tipping point. The current government shutdown is but one painful symptom. The system has been out of the people’s hands for too long.
At Dollar Trail we believe we can help to solve the problems caused by the rampant exchange of money in Washington, in this lifetime.
So, How Do We Stop It?
We think the key is simple: generate some broad-appeal excitement around the issue, mix in the profound and unstoppable power of the American vox populi, and demand change.
But first, we must educate; and how better to educate, than to entertain?
Dollar Trail is Designed for the Political Moderate
Most news is geared toward an apathetic majority, or a fanatic minority. Dollar Trail is for everyone else...
We don't expect to create converts. We do expect to inspire small change on a broad scale.
follow us on Twitter at @Dollar_Trail
like us on Facebook at thisisdollartrail
Find us on the web at DollarTrail.com (We're still trying to purchase the dot org)
************* Project Structure *************
The funds we're raising will serve to support at team of:
- 3 writer / researchers
- 2 designers (one still, one motion graphics)
- 3 videographers
- 1 musician (for profile videos)
...from about Nov 1, 2013 through Aug 30, 2014. That's 10 months or so. We'll use the time and money to research, write, design, build, shoot, and edit.
That's less than $350 per month, per person, for the duration of the project. Not exactly a windfall...
(Some of the budget will also go toward remunerating people for work already done, and of course, rewards.)
We'll shoot to launch our product in August 2014, a few months shy of the 2014 congressional election!
- We'll profile 14 of the 33 Senators up for reelection in 2014
- 7 democrats + 7 republicans.
- Some donors will get to choose the final 2 Senators we'll profile!
- Over time, we'd like to expand the site to include all 100 U.S. Senators and 400+ Congresspeople.
- Eventually, we'd like to include all state Governors, all city Mayors, and other representatives at the municipal level.
As stated above, our ultimate goal is to become the web's leading resource on who owns our politicians, and what that means.
A Few Notes
Visit our website! It's very much a work in progress. But you can still learn more about the team, the project, and our goals.
You can also see a list of the organizations that inspire us, as well as a list of our partners, current and (hopefully) future.
I also have a lot of people to thank, even though this project is only just beginning. Please see the full list of thank you's on our website.
************* Thank You! *************
I have so many people to thank. Although in many ways, this project has just begun, many of us have been working on it for the past half a year.
To see some longer, gushy, thank yous and profiles, please visit the team section of our website. Here's a more basic list of those who have already contributed their time and talent to this project.
Kirsten Allen, Illustration | Savannah, GA | http://kallenillustration.com/
Nick Ogawa aka Takénobu | NYC | http://www.takenobumusic.com/
Gabe Wiener, Rob Fruchtman, Adam Moleta | Philly, PA | French Street Films, website under construction
Joseph Young | Baltimore, MD | http://josephyoung.net/
Tom Head, PhD | Jackson, MS | http://civilliberty.about.com/
The Wonderful Folks at StampStampede.org
Christine Sajecki | Savannah, GA | http://www.christinesajecki.com/
Risks and challenges
Our challenges are twofold, and I anticipate they'll be the same after we're funded as they were before we launched this campaign.
++ OUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE MAY BE RETAINING TALENT ++
Successful funding will, in itself, solve our biggest problem. But in reality, we're attempting to raise less than half of what I'd ideally like to have for this first stage of a larger project. We may deal with an attrition problem. If this comes to pass, I feel confident that there's a large pool of committed and talented activists who will want to sign on. We'll just have to find the right people. In the end, a worst case scenario on this issue is that the time frame is pushed back a bit. Not ideal, but still manageable.
++ OUR SECOND CHALLENGE IS ACCESSIBILITY OF INFORMATION ++
PACs and other mechanisms obfuscate the core of the data. Our hope is that we'll surpass our funding goals, so that we're able to buy packages of data from research organizations that will help us get closer to our goals. If we don't have the extra funds for this, it'll be just fine. There's *plenty* to chew on, even without PAC specifics.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
OpenSecrets is a wonderful site, and Dollar Trail couldn't exist without them. There are other trailblazing sites that inspire and inform Dollar Trail every day, including the sunlight foundation, votesmart.org, maplight.org, and more. They're all fighting the good fight, and we hope to join their ranks.
You're right to think that Open Secrets does a great job of providing similar information. Where Dollar Trail differs is in our mission, our method, and -- most significantly -- our intended audience.
Open Secrets and similar sites are perfect for those already invested in the impact of campaign finance laws and lobby money. Dollar Trail's goal is to draw in those moderates who are not extreme in their political views, or fervent in their pursuit of political information.
While Open Secrets provides volumes of raw data in a nice format, Dollar Trail intends to make the information *appealing*. We'll make it more manageable. We'll curate and distill. We'll choose the sexiest bits, and turn those elements into web entertainment. Open Secrets is not in the bells and whistles business. Dollar Trail is.
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