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FollowTheMoney.org: Using Campaign Finance Data to Look at Pharma, Vaccine Industry Influence

FollowTheMoney.org: Using Campaign Finance Data to Look at Pharma, Vaccine Industry Influence

vaccine exemption law, followthemoney.org, edwin bender, reporting on health, pharma, vaccines, immunizationWhether or not AB 2109, a vaccine exemption bill, becomes law in California, it's always useful to put the topic in perspective. Is this bill part of a nationwide movement? Knowing who is donating across the states can open a window into identifying a broader agenda. For instance, some form of vaccination exemption bills have been introduced in Arizona, Vermont, and New York so far in 2012.

Laws regarding school immunization requirements vary between the 50 states. Currently, 50 states allow medical exemption to vaccination, 48 states (all but Mississippi and West Virginia) allow a religious exemption, and 18 states allow a philosophical exemption. In July 2011, Washington became the first state to require written certification from a health care practitioner for a philosophical exemption to vaccination.

FollowTheMoney.org's Industry Influence tool lets you isolate the campaign contributors from a particular economic industry that gave to state politicians, then compare that industry's giving over the years. You can also look at multiple states for a given year, or see the giving in relation to other industries. Drop-down menus make it easy to switch between candidates and committees, industries, or states.

Simply click a major category or use the "+" symbol to select from among the 145 industry categories (based on the federal government's Standard Industrial Classification system) to see that industry's total given to each party and to ballot measures.

Want more detail? Under the broad category of Health, select Pharmaceuticals and Health Products, click submit, then click on 2010 to be taken to the National Overview map that shows these interests contributed $21.8 million to candidates and committees nationwide in the 2010 elections. California received the lion's share, followed by New York, Oregon, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio. These may be states to watch for pharmaceutical-related legislation.

Is industry influence all about substantial campaign contributions? Not necessarily. This data also tells us that the industry contributed relatively little in Arizona or Vermont, states considering vaccine exemption legislation this year. Take a look at the lobbying expenditures instead, or follow a different trail to be able to connect the dots and tell the story.

Photo credit: USACE Europe District via Flickr

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