Journalism in the Public Interest

Debate Night Snacks: Help ProPublica Take a Bite out Dark Money Spending



Tonight, while Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are preparing their foreign policy talking points for the final presidential debate of the 2012 election, we’ll be joining a group of Ohio volunteers focused on uncovering political spending at home. And you can, too.

The NewsOutlet — a consortium of college and professional news organizations — has organized volunteers at Youngstown State University to review and log political ad files ahead of tonight’s debate as part of ProPublica’s Free the Files project. Anyone can participate by logging into Free the Files and answering four simple questions about each ad file (and follow along with The NewsOutlet on Twitter at #FreeTheFiles) tonight from 6 to 8 p.m.

These political files were previously only available by visiting TV stations in person. But in August, the Federal Communications Commission began requiring stations in the top 50 markets to publish their files online.

Since then, nearly 675 volunteers have uncovered $407 million in ad buys in the files, including $90.7 million so far in Cleveland, Akron and Canton — the most of any other market in the Free the Files database. Indeed, a recent study by Wells Fargo Securities found that Cleveland ranked second in the nation for political spending.

As one volunteer, Lily Korte, told the Akron Beacon Journal, “Eventually you reach a point where something like $50,000 seems like a tiny amount of money because you just saw an ad buy that was half a million dollars. It’s just ridiculous. It’s thousands and thousands of these things.”

With just 15 days left until the election, here’s a look at the markets where we’ve made most progress so far (with many thanks to the volunteers who’ve helped get us here).

To help us make more progress in any of these markets, choose it from the drop-down below and then click “free a file.”

If you’re interested in obtaining files from your local television station or any of the other markets not covered by the FCC’s top 50, the Political Ad Sleuth project is collecting those files. The Sunlight Foundation will also be hosting a data happy hour this Thursday in Washington, D.C., and Boston for volunteers interested in meeting up.

Ohio Free the Files Meetup

Did i just watch a documentary about a “non profit” site that i just visited only to find a donate button in the corner haaaaa

clarence swinney

Oct. 23, 2012, 7:24 a.m.

Two entirely different fiscal ideologies
1945-1980 we taxed wealth to pay down wwii debt
1980-2009 we cut taxes and went on borrow binge that
allowed wealth to pay less in taxes
Reagan cut top rate 60% and increased spending
by 80% and debt by 189%
Bush cut taxes and increased spending by 90% and debt by 112%
or “doubled” after 225 years.

Tax & Spend=Pay Your Way
Spend & Borrow=kids pay tomorrow

clarence swinney

Oct. 23, 2012, 7:27 a.m.

Boast O Boast
Sept Housing starts boomed
His FHA has lowest interest rates in history.
3% on 10 year and 3.8% on 30 year loan
fixed rate low down payment

Mitt good looks scare   too many vote emotions

mathew, I don’t think you know what non-profit means at all.  You’ve never seen a charity ask for donations…?

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Free the Files

Free the Files

Outside groups are spending hundreds of millions to influence the coming elections. Help unlock outside spending by "freeing" political ad buys from television stations in swing markets.

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