For the past 15 years, Kevin Rooney has been a liaison for non-profit advocacy groups interacting with government. Now, as the managing director of a federal campaign finance clearinghouse, Rooney is changing the way journalists follow the money.
“From where I sit, one of the challenges is simplicity,” Rooney said. “The question we ask ourselves is ‘How do we provide information in a simple and easy to understand way, while at the same time providing the level of detail for the C-Span political news junkie?’”
Rooney is the managing director of the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a Washington-based non-profit that tracks money in politics. He oversees the center’s online database of federal campaign and lobbying finance, opensecret.org. He is currently heading the development of a more comprehensive version of the site for the nearly half million unique users who visit the site each month.
“We’re going to try to do what we’ve been doing but do it better: utilize new technologies to get this information to more places, make it easier for people to understand it, take advantage of current and coming technologies, to take information that’s publicly available, aggregate the data, make it easier to understand and put it in an awful lot of places,” he said.
Rooney, who studied communications, took a less-than-straight path to the online community, including a brief stint as a stockbroker. He taught himself Web technology and decided to follow his passion into politics.
"What I found out over time was I like the content side of things more than sales,” he said. “And I’ve always had a passion for politics. I think it matters. It makes a difference in people’s lives.”
Rooney says that journalists still have the crucial role of translating the information the Center provides and making it relevant to consumers. He said the CRP expects donors to spend $4-5 million on the 2008 U.S. elections and said “regular people” need to understand what that means.
“There’s never going to be a world where people with money won’t have more influence,” “But by arming people with information, we can balance the scales.”
-- Ashley Southall