Adhering to its long muckraking tradition, Mother Jones magazine will let Netizens follow the money when it publishes its annual list of the 400 largest political contributors in America online tomorrow.
Under the umbrella of Net democracy, surfers can search a database of itemized contributions to learn which politicians are being backed by deep-pocketed contributors and how much cash they're fronting.
The list comprises all federal campaign donations for 1995 and 1996, letting visitors punch in names of contributors to see how much they gave on a daily basis.
A quick search for Barbra Streisand shows that last year she gave thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee, President Clinton, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California), and many other elected officials. Apple Computer cofounder Steven Jobs was also a top contributor, giving $100,000 to the DNC and $50,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign in 1996.
Mother Jones says its online database is the people's version of the Federal Election Commission.
"It's important to put this online because these people are investors. They're getting a return on their money if ultimately a bill gets passed that benefits their industries," said Eric Umansky, editor of MoJo Wire, which put the information online.
The move to list campaign contributions on the Net is growing across the country. A bill that was recently introduced in Maryland would eventually put all contributions online.
This week, the California Senate amended a bill that would require contributions to be recorded electronically. If passed, the bill would make candidates for state offices post all contribution statements on the Net, effective July 1, 2000.
In a separate initiative, California Secretary of State Bill Jones has announced a plan to implement a voluntary electronic filing program.