Political Money, Tracked to Your Door

By Leslie Walker

Sunday, March 28, 2004; Page F07

A new Web site makes it easy to see how much dough your neighbors are giving to presidential candidates.

FundRace 2004, launched 10 days ago at http://www.fundrace.org/, lets you enter any street address and see what people at or near that location have contributed to a presidential candidate, along with their addresses and occupations. The data is based on reports that campaigns regularly file with the Federal Election Commission (http://www.fec.gov/). You can also look up a name and get the same information.

Color-coded maps at the site show which regions lean Republican or Democratic in their largess, and spotlight the five most generous addresses, by party, in each city.

In Washington, the top GOP address listed is 666 11th St. NW, an office building whose occupants gave $10,000 to President Bush. Donors there included parking magnate Leonard B. "Bud" Doggett.

The top Democratic address is 2801 New Mexico Ave. NW, home to the Colonnade condominiums, where 15 residents gave a total of $23,000. The most generous donor there was Democratic consultant Michael Berman, who gave $2,000 each to John Kerry, Dick Gephardt and Joe Lieberman, and $1,000 to Howard Dean.

The creators of FundRace said they came up with the site as an experiment in presenting public data in new ways. "We wanted to create something that would connect ordinary people to the ways money influences politics," said Jonah Peretti, research and development chief for Eyebeam, the Manhattan-based nonprofit group that developed the site.

While other sites offer contribution data -- the Center for Responsive Politics' OpenSecrets.org (http://www.opensecrets.org/) lists contributions for other races beyond the presidential contest -- FundRace's distinction is the way it matches each address in the FEC filings with longitude and latitude data. This lets you use the site to discover neighbors' names, occupations and political leanings.

Some folks don't like this ease of snooping, worrying that nosey employers or stalkers could abuse FundRace.

But Peretti and Michael Frumin, the lead developer, noted that all the information is already publicly available (the FEC's site offers it, although much less conveniently). "Anyone who is a crazy stalker, if they really wanted to, could have found this information before," said Frumin.

Lycos, InfoSpace Tee Up Toolbars

Web surfers got two new free software add-ons to help them manage online research last week. Each works in Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser for Windows and provides a shortcut to a search site.

Lycos Inc.'s HotBot Desktop adds a toolbar to the top of the Internet Explorer window that lets you search the Web as well as files on your own computer. It also blocks pop-up ads. Finally, HotBot Desktop includes a newsreader application that lets users subscribe to news headlines from the thousands of Web sites that publish their content using a standard called "RSS" (Really Simple Syndication).

InfoSpace Inc., meanwhile, released its own free toolbar. It, too, comes with a search shortcut (for InfoSpace's DogPile search engine) and an RSS newsreader. DogPile's toolbar also includes a news ticker that scrolls a customized set of headlines; mercifully, the ticker can be turned off. www.hotbot.com/tools/desktop


E-mail Leslie Walker at walkerl@washpost.com.

2004 The Washington Post Company