Campaign Finance

'Greenhouse' Plug-In Lets You See Where Politicians Get Their Money



The Internet has birthed a new useful tool to keep tabs on politicians. It's a browser plug-in called "Greenhouse" and it lets users easily access information on where our public servants get their campaign donations.

For example, if you were reading recent news about Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her views on Obamacare, simply hovering a mouse over her name would bring up a political baseball card of sorts. Greenhouse lists the top 10 industries from which a politician receives money, and Pelosi's number one comes from health professionals. They gave her slightly over $200,000 in 2012 (see image right).

The software, which launched early in June for browsers Safari and Google Chrome and just last week for Firefox, also highlights what percentage of a politician's funds come from presumably grassroots supporters, those who make donations of $200 or less. For Pelosi, that comes out to a mere 4.8 percent.

Greenhouse's creator, Nicholas Rubin, explains on his website that "even though I am only 16 years old, not quite old enough to vote, I am old enough to know that our political system desperately needs fixing. I hope that this tool is one step in that direction."

Rubin says the name of his plug-in comes from a desire for transparency, like the glass walls of a greenhouse. One may also infer something about politicians and hot gas as well, but he doesn't explicitly make that point. The young coder gives some insight into his own political philosophy and mission:

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.

Technology blog Engadget critiques the fact that the Rubin's data is a few years old. He replied that "the information in the popup is from the last full election cycle (ending in 2012) because it is most complete data available." Rubin pulls his information from the Center for Responsive Politics Open Secrets website, which tracks lobbying and campaign contributions, and "plan[s] to update the data in the popup itself later in this election cycle as 2014 contributions are more complete." 

NEXT: Obamacare Covers the Uninsured (and Some Who Weren't)

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  1. Attack Watch is about to launch a DoS attack.

  2. 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.

    So says the guy from Big Plug-in.

    1. The United States of America was founded to serve protect the rights of individuals, not government, big interests or big industries or the politically connected. Yet every year we seem to move farther and farther away from our Founders’ vision.

  3. “Big Interests or Big Industries”

    Who decides who falls into those categories? The VFW and American Legion are Big Interests…WHY DO U H8 VETRANNZ!!!! The Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club?

    Why are like minded people throwing in together suddenly EVUL INFLUENZE!!!! ?


      Small is Beautiful, baby!


  4. Greenhouse’s creator, Nicholas Rubin, explains on his website that “even though I am only 16 years old, not quite old enough to vote, I am old enough to know that our political system desperately needs fixing. I hope that this tool is one step in that direction.”

    Let me guess, get the money out of politics by banning it?

  5. Is it compatible with reasonable and our fair H&R, squirrels and all?

    a political baseball card

    I’ll trade you Pelosi, Feinstein, and Reid for an Obama rookie card.

    1. Have you seen him throw a baseball?

  6. I was somewhat surprised to find out that 100% of Rosa DeLauro’s campaign funds are revenues from her adult webcam shows.

    1. revenues from her adult webcam shows.

      Is that the one where she talks like a grownup?

    2. ugh. ack. ick. argh.

    3. Thank God I know better than to click.

  7. While this is cool it rather misses the point. Politicians do not win because they get money, they get money because they win and have power. The correlation for winning elections is just as strong for incumbency as it is for raising more money and no one has yet been able to demonstrate how simply raising more money can move an electorate.

    It is one thing if you are a candidate in a downballot election where vote totals are small and name recognition matters so just being able to buy a few hundred more road signs, send out a couple extra fliers, and maybe buy a billboard or radio add or two can swing the election by more than the margin of victory.

    With the elections everyone pays attention to (President, Senate, House, and Governors) however there is a buy in amount you need to raise to get the media to pay attention to you, but ultimately that is fairly small and once you get it simple media coverage alone will guarantee that your name and message get out there.

    1. Yeah, I agree. It’s just another “look, money and power keep finding each other!” concept.

    2. Yeah, this is the fundamental flaw in the “money is corrupting politics!” complaint. Uh, no. Politics is already corrupt as shit. Therefore of course money is going to find its way in.

      1. I’ve said that repeatedly. but what do I know. i’m just a DC lobbyist.

      2. A truer statement is that politics corrupts money.

    3. I dunno, tools like this that increase transparency are always welcome. I totally agree that people get causation confused, but that doesn’t mean more information is bad or useless.

      1. All this does is expose the hypocrisy of the “this seat is MINE!!!” crowd (Pelosi, Boxer, Schumer, Rangel, McCain, Reid, Turtle, etc.). I see absolutely no problem with it on its own.

      2. I did say it was cool

  8. Just a marketing tip, I would have called the app “Glass house” and the icon would be a rock going through a pane of glass. But that’s just me.

  9. For me, the point would be to see the clear motivations behind how the person operates. I’m curious about my own Congress Creature. My guess is most of his money comes from gubmint contractors.

    And also to shove it in progs’ faces that their hero politician is motivated by nothing more than pure Gordon Gecko greed. There’s no such thing as altruism in politics.

    1. Big Altruism would like a word with you, KK….

      1. Fuck the United Way!

        1. *throws an orphan in the fire*

  10. I can think of nothing I want less than an app that will let me see yet another pic of Nancy Pelosi.

    DO. NOT. WANT.

    I do like the donation info, ‘tho.

  11. Giving it a try on James. P. Moran.

    1. Bugger. It works on Nancy Pelosi and Rand Paul. Maybe Jim Moran?

      1. Nope. James Moran?

  12. Bernie Sanders…

  13. What amazes me is the small numbers. Pelosi et al. sell the labors and liberties of the American people for a lot less dough than I thought. Her top donor is only in the $200k range. I expected more. I guess if you look at how many people are taking in that kind of graft, the numbers will add up. Even so, I thought my freedom was worth more.

    1. Your freedom isn’t worth anything to someone like Pelosi (or any other politician). They’d sell your freedom for two bucks.

      “I want my two dollars!”

      1. In a way, they cheat themselves out of money. If they placed a higher value on our freedom, they would hold out for better prices. Since they don’t, they lose as well.

        1. Since they don’t, they lose as well.

          I’m not sure I’d call it ‘losing’.

          1. Slavery is Freedom etc. etc.

    2. THIS

      Monica Conyers (former Detroit City Council critter, and wife of the horridly useless Congrsstard John Conyers) got thrown in jail for…it was a couple grand. A bribe – I don’t even remember what for, from whom.

      And I thought, “Really, that’s IT? That’s all you took?”

      That made it even sadder – the small ball of it all…

      1. Conyers gets most of his $$ from “TV/Movies/Music”. WTF?

      2. Exactly! They hold liberty and integrity so lowly, they have no way to properly value those things. They sell the fortunes of the country for pennies on the dollar.

    3. Yeah but when you consider the fact that she hasn’t actually had to run for reelection in decades pretty much all of her fund raising is graft as opposed to legitimate election expenses.

    4. Could be wrong, but I don’t think that $200k represents a single donation. It’s the industry from which she gets most of her donations, and how much those donations add up to.

      1. That’s my interpretation, which is why I was frustrated at having my freedom and labor low-balled by the crooked pols.

    5. “What amazes me is the small numbers.”

      These are the directly reported on the book numbers.

    6. This is also only above-the-table donations.

    7. Jesus H. Christ|6.23.14 @ 1:54PM|#
      “What amazes me is the small numbers.”

      It’s not surprising that they’re for sale, it’s that they’re so damn cheap!

  14. It also show what % of their total money comes from the under $200 pile.Ol’ Nancy is waaay down the list on that one.

  15. Justin Amash…

  16. Not included – speaking fees, relatives’ places of employment, relatives’ on boards of corporations, free vacation home access, total value of goods and services provided by the government and used (flights, etc…)

  17. I don’t get it. I added the app, reloaded FireFox. Highlighted Nancy Polosi. And nothing happens.

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