About three months ago, I was in one of my world famous burrito comas and was wide awake at midnight. I was restless and trying to find something that would be dull and monotonous enough to maybe lull me back to sleep. I flipped through various apps on my TV to find a movie when I stumbled across All the President’s Men. I had never seen the movie or read the book. Moreover, my knowledge of the Watergate scandal is cursory at best.
I settled in, grabbed a blanket and pillow, and prepared to reach the Land of Nod in less than twenty minutes.
Nope. That didn’t happen. Not even a little bit. I have never been more keyed up in my life after watching that film. When the political thriller ended, one line stood out from the rest: “Follow the money.” This line is often mis-attributed to Deep Throat, but was never mentioned in the book or in any documentation of the scandal. The closest to that line came from the book wherein Bob Woodward says to Senator Sam Ervin, “the key was the secret campaign cash, and it should all be traced.”
From that fateful viewing, my interest in current events grew. I found myself questioning everyone’s motive with the simple question: What do they stand to gain? I realized that there’s a reason why money is often regarded as the greatest motivator, especially when it comes to the game of politics.
Enter an enterprising 16-year old. In 2014, a young man named Nicholas Rubin created a revolutionary tool that was largely ignored. His creation is called Greenhouse and it’s a browser extension that will show you who is bankrolling a particular member of Congress. I know I’ve gotten really good at recommending extensions for you, and I do it to support you. This one is significantly more helpful, I think, than Make America Kittens Again, but mileage may vary. The Greenhouse extension works thusly:
A free browser extension for Chrome, Safari, and Firefox that exposes the role money plays in Congress and highlights key election races. Displays on any web page detailed campaign contribution data for every Senator and Representative, including total amount received and breakdown by industry and by size of donation. Puts vital data where it’s most relevant so you can discover the real impact of money on our political system. - From the Greenhouse website
Money talks, and Greenhouse is the easiest tool available to show how and where cash is influencing politics. It is important to note that the amounts of money that show in the rollovers are reflective of value of the dollar in 2012 and do not account for the cumulative rate of inflation of 4.5%. Rubin plans on continuing to support the plugin with added functionality in the future, so we can expect Greenhouse to get even better.
“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.” Rubin notes in a letter on the Greenhouse website. “I hope that this tool is one step in that direction.”
So while there’s much debate over whether we get to see where Trump’s money has gone in the form of his tax returns, it’s just as important to focus on where his money is going. For me, I liken it to playing poker: If you want to win the game, you’ve got to know who’s playing.
Simplified, Greenhouse is the answer to the immortal words of Cuba Gooding Jr.: