Show (yourself) the money!

The good news: It's an election year. Michigan voters get to pass judgment on filling 110 seats in the Michigan House of Representatives, plus some seats on the state Supreme Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals, the State Board of Education, Michigan State University Board of Trustees, University of Michigan Board of Regents, and Wayne State University Board of Governors.

The bad news: It's difficult for voters to keep track of where the money is flowing in the political system. Michigan's campaign finance rules, for example, do not require candidates competing in primaries for state House seats to file a report of their collections between Jan. 31 and July 27 this year.

Still, as weak as the rules are, citizens do have access to plenty of data to assess the allegiances of political candidates.

To that end, Bridge Magazine has added a special button to its home page for the campaign season that will take a reader directly to the state's searchable database of contributions and expenditures. See it on the right side of the home page, under the header "Campaign 2012."

Citizens need not rely simply on the state's contribution to political transparency. Among the useful sites on the Web are:

* The Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the state's premier financial watchdog site -- http://www.mcfn.org/

* The National Institute on Money in State Politics hosts a treasure trove of databases -- http://www.followthemoney.org/

* The Center on Responsive Politics touts itself as "the nation's premier research group tracking money in U.S. politics ..." -- http://www.opensecrets.org/

* The National Conference of State Legislatures monitors campaign reform and other election-related legislation in the 50 states -- http://www.ncsl.org/legislatures-elections.aspx?tabs=1116,114,800

* The Center for Public Integrity recently rated all the states based on public accountability. (Michigan scored an "F.") -- http://www.iwatchnews.org/2012/03/19/8423/grading-nation-how-accountable-your-state

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