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C-SPAN’s Lamb: Where’s the Money from?

Atlanta -- One of the next big steps in interactive television will be to let viewers find out instantly who the financial backers of public officials are, as they speak, C-SPAN CEO Brian Lamb said.

“It won't be too long where if you're watching a network like ours or any of the news networks and you see a political official on-screen, you're going to be able to push a button and know instantly where the money is coming from,” Lamb said during the opening session of the National Show here Sunday.

He said his public-affairs network has begun work toward creating that capability, although the actual delivery of the service may not happen for a year or two.

The viewer would be able to use a remote control or potentially a computer keyboard to ask for data on the politician speaking on screen. The drill-down would take the viewer into data that would show not just the source of contributions to the politician's campaigns, but the board members of the organizations contributing, backgrounds of those individuals and their ongoing businesses and the like.

The data likely would be downloadable for further analysis by the viewer on a PC, he said.
“That's our only hope,” Lamb added, given the lack of significant reform on lobbying practices in the past four decades and continuing scandals such as those involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the sentencing to jail of former California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham for taking bribes from defense companies.

“With this $3 trillion budget, there's so much money in Washington that's available for people, even for people in this room, that we have to figure out a way to be able to let the public get to the facts on where [the money is] coming from, immediately,” he said. “And I would hope that this is something we would be able to do in the next couple years.”

Even if C-SPAN or major news networks won't do it, public-interest foundations will, he added.
 “I guarantee you it's going to happen. Because if the media can't do it, these foundations are going to do it,” he said, without naming any specifically.