These days, Virginia is a patchwork of yellow, orange and burgundy counties according to the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to making campaign finance information available on its Web site, www.vpap.org.
VPAP launched a new tool Sept. 29 to help citizens make sense of campaign spending. It's a series of interactive maps for each statewide candidate that color-codes counties by how much donors in those counties have given.
"Wading through campaign finance reports is one of the hardest things for ordinary citizens to do," says Stephen Farnsworth, associate professor of political science at Mary Washington University. "Virginia is much more focused on disclosure than on restrictions on the money coming in [to political campaigns]."
People who are interested in the state races for governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general can now more easily see trends on its Web site, where data are visually displayed on a map of Virginia rather than raw numbers in columns.
"This really puts it in a very reasonable format," says Farnsworth.
For instance, the new VPAP map shows that Democratic candidate Tim Kaine is raising more money in the northern part of the state, and Republican Jerry Kilgore is faring better in the south. Scott County in Southside Virginia shows up yellow for Kaine and brown for Kilgore, who has out-earned his opponent by more than $140,000 there.
Right now, the new details apply only to statewide candidates, but VPAP expects eventually to go into even finer detail and map spending by ZIP codes and legislative districts, says Aaron Kessler, VPAP's deputy director. Amy Biegelsen
Letters to the editor may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org