From Michael Morisy, Somerville resident and founder of MuckRock.com, in an email newsletter this morning:
Help publish the 2009 Somerville Campaign Finance Reports!
By law, public officials in Massachusetts have to disclose a lot of information regarding where they receive their campaign funding from, and what they spend it on. These reports paint a vivid picture of who scratches whose back, and can help map political connections and motivations. Unfortunately, many of these reports are relatively inaccessible to the general public. For example, the City of Somerville’s campaign finance reports are in a musty filing cabinet in a basement room in City Hall. MuckRock teamed up with local news site Post Somerville to request these documents, but the fees are over a hundred dollars for just the mayor’s finance reports. To cover these costs, and put the reports in a fully downloadable, searchable format online and open to everyone, we’ve partnered with crowd-funding platform Spot.us to raise money. Donating $5, $10 or $20 would go a long ways towards validating the work we’re doing, but you don’t even have to open your wallet: Take a quick, 2-minute survey, and Spot.us will contribute $6 towards our mission of greater transparency. Click here now to help.
Here’s the pitch from the community-funded journalism site Spot.Us:
The City of Somerville, MA. has mandatory public financial disclosures, that detail information ranging from who donated to candidates, how many hours of time various public figures volunteered, and more that helps illuminate the political structure of the city. Unfortunately, these records are locked in the basement of Somerville’s City Hall.
Local news site Post Somerville wants to change that, and has filed a freedom of information request via MuckRock for the documents. The City of Somerville charges .25 cents per page, and the Election Department quoted $100 for copies of the Mayor’s 2009 disclosures. We will get and post those forms, as well as those of other high-profile Somerville elected officials.
By funding the release of these documents, you’ll be putting this important snapshot into the public domain: MuckRock filters requests through DocumentCloud, which helps “tag” politicians and other figures, as well as providing an easy viewing, search and downloading interface for any member of the public to finally access this potential trove of information.
In a move for greater transparency, the public is also invited to track most MuckRock requests while they are going through the legal system. This particular request is tracked here.
Please join me in supporting this important story!