State of the Union address: Five sites politicians rather you not look at

President Barack Obama is preparing what some say will be his most contention State of the Union address ever.  Tax cuts for the middle class, free community college, and guaranteed paid leave are among the items he is expected to propose.  With tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans being suggested as a counterweight to the expense of some of these ideas, Republicans are already lining up against this particular set of proposals.

As the political climate in not just Washington, but around the nation, continues to remain polarized, here are some websites which pundits, party faithful, and politicians alike all tend to consider to be rather disquieting for their agendas.  These sites all have one thing in common; they make the everyday voter think.

OpenSecrets.org

As campaign finance has taken on more of a critical role in winning elections, and as big money become the key to winning national races, this website has also taken on new significance.  OpenSecrets is non-partisan, and shows the data.  While numbers don’t always tell the whole story, they rarely miss the mark.  This site’s easy-to-use interface allows voters to see national and state races, and look at who is really funding races, and who are merely boogeyman created by the opposition for the purposes of P.R.  More to the point, it also shows which businesses and contributors are playing both sides, and does a wonderful job of exposing campaign donation hypocrisy by individuals and businesses alike.

Politifact.com

Begun by the Tampa Bay Times, this fact-checking database and commentary site has expanded to seven states and several major newspapers in cities such as Cleveland, Atlanta and Austin.  Where it serves voters is to fact-check quotes by politicians, internet memes, rumors and a variety of statements from sources around the world.  It’s most scathing judgment, the “Pants on Fire” rating, has drawn the ire of politicians on both sides of the aisle.  Those who worried about how partisan this site is need only look to its “Lie of the Year” dishonor awarded to President Barack Obama in 2013 for his statement about the Affordable Care Act.  Politifact have proven, time and again, to be the friend of the voter and a site which politicians get quite defensive about being cited on.

RealClearPolitics

Though mostly an aggregator of information, RCP packages the information in a very effective, efficient and visually appealing fashion.  One of the reasons politicians tend to not like this site has nothing to do with the site itself, but the ease-of-use for voters to find information that’s otherwise difficult to locate.  Polling data, analysis, commentary and opinions from both sides of the aisle of provided here, as well as other political items.  RCP tends to avoid the partisan tilt of other political sites, and instead presents all sides.  For partisans, this is something akin to pouring rubbing alcohol on a festering wound – necessary, but extremely painful.

Infowars

Yes, Alex Jones is a conspiracy theory-foisting kook, but every once and while his site stumbles upon something everyone else misses, or is buried in the back page because nobody else thinks it worth the time.  Jones has, in the past, provided a voice to those who screamed about government cover-ups, warrantless wiretapping, and NSA abuses.   The frightening part for politicians and power brokers alike is that Infowars has a grain of truth to it, and that truth tends to lead voters down a rabbit hole that those in power simply don’t like them exploring.  Yes, he’s a wackjob most days, but there’s a fine line between insanity and true genius.  Infowars straddles that line, and its often up to the individual to divine fact from farce.

Examiner

Not tooting our own horn here – there are some extremely capable contributors to the “Citizen Journalism” site.  There are also some folks on this site who make Alex Jones look like an elder statesman.  One of the most interesting parts to Examiner, and one which politicians tend to be rather abrasive about, is that some of these contributors are party ideologues who inadvertently post links with solid data to back up otherwise out-there opinions.  To make a long story short, the “Law of Unintended Consequences” has allowed Examiner to go from being a site of “amateur hour” writers to a genuine source for information.  Like Infowars, it requires a critical eye and the ability to distill information.  “Trust, but verify” is the name of the game for Examiner viewers.

GAO.gov

The site for the Government Accountability Office is like a library of toast – it’s dry, boring and basically the same thing piled atop the same thing.  It’s also a politician’s worst nightmare when voters are engaged enough to do some digging.  This website has been known for releasing data both sides really hate and, if you have the patience and desire to learn bureaucratese, it can turn the everyday voter into a political headache for either party.  The enemy of a crooked politician is an informed voter, and being able to counter spin with statistics can turn any double-speaker into a blathering idiot in a matter of minutes.  The key to using this website is determination and attention to detail – know what you are looking for exactly, and it come to you easily – assuming that reading through mountains of government-mandated jargon is something you consider “easy.”

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