After reading Republic, Lost, Tony Chu was inspired to reduce the 500-page book to graphical form.

The infographic clearly shows that the politicians who outspend their opponents by and large win.

And given that a very rich, elite group are contributing…

…they have an incredible amount of influence.

Much of the graphic plays with your expectations…

…revealing what people expect and what is. (in this case, school lunches)

And once you see the debates playing out in cash…

…it’s easy to understand why policies are what they are.

Infographic: How Money Rules Elections

We all know that money influences politics, but just how much cash are we talking about?

We can talk policy until we’re blue in the face, but it’s money that wins campaigns. In fact, in 95% of House elections last year, the candidate who spent the most won.

It’s one of a few incredibly depressing facts from Let’s Free Congress, an animated infographic by Tony Chu. He calls the topics of lobbying and campaign finance a "morbid fascination," so much so that after reading Republic, Lost, Chu was inspired to summarize the 500-page book into a quick graphical message. His result is a visual whirlwind of facts, riffing on the trope of a single orange dot to drive his point home.

"I wanted something that was active and in your face," Chu tells Co.Design. "I also wanted to avoid the colors that are already loaded with meaning (e.g. red, blue and green). That shade of orange felt artificial and manufactured, which hints at what big money represents."

That feeling of constant activity was built through parallax animation (which means you actually need to test it over on Chu’s site to get the effect). No doubt, parallax is one of those tools we’ll see implemented both very well and very poorly over the next few years. In this case, it’s mostly window dressing on the information rather than a means to understand it in a new way. That said, it’s executed well enough that the animation does add a certain dramatic flare, and it keeps you scrolling through a sort of addicting mix of engagement and distractedness so that, by the end, you might just learn something.

See it here.

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  • Dave

    Did those candidates win because they received most of the funding, or did they receive most of the funding because they were likely to win?

  • Experiment626

    He needs to do a slide on how much money is spent to lobby for abortion.  And how much money those groups get from the government.
    Actually he should include how money the groups in his current slides get from the government.  We should not be paying money to groups so they can 'donate' to politician's re-election.

  • Beau Hall

    This is a beautiful web page, but the bill seems ridiculous. Where will the $100 per citizen come from? Why not limit the campaign money or lobbyist money instead? Fighting fire with fire in this case will only line the pockets of politicians.

    I'm still in favor of doing something about it. I'll sign the petition, but would rather figure out a way to block the spending.

  • D1bd841c

     If you figured out a way to block the spending then somebody is going to loose their freedom...

  • Christian


    It's great to want to free congress, but on other issues, realize there is a small percent of people contributing in the way of taxes.Let's not forget that the *top 10 percent of income* earners paid *71 percent of all federal income taxes* in 2009 though they earned 43 percent of all income. The bottom 50 percent paid 2 percent of income taxes but earned 13 percent of total income.About half of tax filers paid no federal income tax at all. scary how few people pay taxes.

  • Chris Kelly

    Adam Curtis describes the West as having a 'Strange kind of freedom'. I think these graphics go a long way in illustrating that. Your free, as long as you have more cash than the other guy. Very interesting indeed. After scandals of underhand payments in the UK government for parliment questions, it would interesting to see a UK version too

  • al

    Something strange I've noticed about US politics is that people often say "freedom" when they actually mean "power to make people do what you want them to do". That's not what freedom means.

    Being able to pay politicians to bring in laws that suit you is a type of power over other people. It's not a type of freedom - someone having that power limits other people's freedom. I'm no longer free to enter a free open debate with my local representative about what the best policy on school meals is if some guy has already paid him to make sure some local rehydrated junk meat producer gets the contract no matter what. 

    When people have the power to buy policies, everyone else loses the freedom to take part in a democratic process - because there's no longer a democratic process to take part in.

    People rarely seem to challenge these apologists for the corrupt who twist the word freedom until it loses all meaning. I don't understand why.

  • Dawn Houston

     It's interesting, I've known this for a while, but to actually see it. It really hits the mark. I find it scary how much money influences political decisions in this country.