Political Intelligence for Everyone
We believe in watching Congress invest, because they have power over their investments and watching keeps them honest. Also, we might learn a thing or two.
Political investments are already public record. But the data is disclosed erratically, stays fragmented, and remains hard to follow. So, we use machine reading techniques to integrate new disclosures into our database as soon as they are available. Then we use other data streams from financial markets and statistical methods to backfill missing information.
We’ve developed easy-to-read Congressional Dossiers for every member and are building a groupwide Congressional Stock Tracker so that any of us could invest like a Senator. Our Dossiers explain how each Representative invests, so you can decide if their behavior is good for you. Our Tracking Reports look at individual and group trends over time.
Our job is to make this information easy to access, search, and comprehend. For us, following politics and the markets is fun. And we shouldn’t be the only ones to have all the fun.
Sign up below for updates. We're launching a kickstarter to hire programmers and a database engineer, and pushing out analytic excerpts regularly. We also want to expand to cover state-level politicians and politicians in other countries. Keep exploring to find out more.
Three notable studies have found that Congress doesn’t invest like the rest of us:
In 2004, Alan Ziobrowski found that, from 1993-98, US Senators beat the market by ~12% per year.
In a 2011 follow-up, Ziobrowski et al found that US House Members beat the market by ~6% per year, from 1985-2001.
Finally, in 2014, Eggers & Hainmueller found that while Members of Congress did not systematically outperform from 2004-2008, they did manage to beat the market by 7% per year when investing in companies to which they are "politically connected".
Of course, can we really be surprised? Even though they agree that insider trading by members is illegal, Congress has claimed that they cannot be independently investigated by the SEC for insider trading, as they view such investigations as a violation of the separation of powers. They have also, very notably, resisted efforts to make the information easier to view.
Ultimately, our goal is to be able to re-create these studies in real-time and publish our results. We're going to need more programming and database expertise to get there, but for now you can check out our blog for excerpts of our work.
Joe cares about developing innovative, data-driven solutions to the challenges of political transparency. He works with our data scientists, programmers, and finance specialists.
Before FinePrint, Joe spent his 20s and early 30s as an academic researcher and organizer for political campaigns. He has (almost) received his PhD from Cornell University in Government, where his research agenda focused on the co-evolution of states and markets and business-government relations in the finance sector. Most recently, he held a Research Fellowship at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He holds a B.A. from Swarthmore College, an M.A. from the University of Chicago and has worked as a campaign manager, political scientist, and statistician.
Joe is originally from Kentucky and now lives in Massachusetts.
Get in Touch
We'd love to hear from you. We welcome suggestions about direction, general comments, and offers of support. We're booting up a kickstarter to get resources, and we're sending out previews of our analytic trends reports to our mailing list. Sign up to be the first to know what we're doing!