What’s New about Our New Website

March 16, 2010

Note: The California website, featuring data on California legislators, launched May 4, 2010     and is at


After a year of work, we’re thrilled that this week, Sunshine Week, we have launched an all-new version of our website shining a light on money and influence in Congress. All our improvements were the result of listening to what you, our users, wanted. Thank you for your enthusiasm and support!

Here are the details what is new in our new site--both the parts you can see and the parts behind the scenes.

Changes you can see

1. New overall information architecture and navigation: what web pages go where, and how all the site’s information is organized.

2. New graphic look throughout site.

3. Redesigned pages about bills in Congress, with many changes to what data is presented and how it is presented.

4. New data and views on bill pages that did not exist before:

  • New “totals” view to compare total money from support and opposition interests
  • New percentage figures shown on charts aid in comparisons
  • View data as chart or table
  • Download data in CSV format, for further analysis in a spreadsheet
  • ‘Share’ button on bill pages for email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

5. Ability to move mouse over charts to see more details of data.

6. New tools to analyze (filter) legislator money/votes by:

  • Political party
  • State
  • Committee membership
  • How they voted
  • Voted with or against their donors
  • Any ad-hoc/custom group of legislators

7. New interest group filters to easily select interest groups to include or exclude.

8. New date range “data filter” to view contributions for any custom date range.

9. See PAC contributions, non-PAC contributions, or both.

10. View or exclude contributions to legislators’ Presidential campaigns.

11. Each amendment and each bill text now has its own support and opposition interests. This important change reflects that amendments often have different supporting and opposing interests than the bill being amended. This improvement will help surface more interesting findings with more specific connections between money, votes and policy outcomes. This change required extensive research and programming work including:

  • Created new internal data model to track any vote, not just “on-passage” final votes on bills—including amendment votes and voice votes.
  • Created information design and user interface to support working with this new data model.
  • Revised scripts to import Congressional legislative data from

12. History of bills now includes extensive new details, including related bills and the text of amendments, when available.

13. See source citations for research on which organizations support and oppose what bills.

14. New “Research Guide” section including explanations of our data and how-to instructions for all our online tools.

15. New Video Tour of site.

16. Rewritten and reorganized “About Us” section.

17. New Legislator search box narrows choices as you type.

18. New Interest Group browse interface, showing hierarchy of Interest Group categories.

19. New blog structure:

  • Posts tagged by jurisdiction (Congress, California, etc.), with separate blog presentations and RSS feeds
  • Research findings now separate from “About MAPLight” news, which has a separate blog presentation and RSS feed
  • Past blog posts are now easier to browse

20. New home page information architecture and graphic design:

  • Highlights key bills in the news
  • Highlights recent research

21. New sitewide search on every page.

  • Search results segmented by bills, politicians, and interest groups
  • Bill search results include icon showing funds from support and opposition interests

22. New bill search tool makes it easier than ever to find a particular bill, even if you don’t know the bill number. Search by sponsor, keyword, title, or bill number.

23. Narrow bill search results by:

  • Which Congress (110th, 111th, etc.)
  • Bills in the news
  • Did an organization take a position on the bill
  • Chamber (House or Senate)
  • Bill status (passed through committee, became law, etc.)
  • Topic of bill

Changes behind the scenes

24. Developed multiple options for graphically presenting money/votes data, refined to final bar charts through user testing.

25. Upgraded site from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6 for faster JavaScript performance and other benefits.

26. Upgraded server hardware, adding RAM to existing servers and adding one new server, for faster and more robust site performance.

27. Implemented sitewide search and bill search in Solr for fast performance and future customization.

We welcome your feedback, and we look forward to more new features and improvements to come.