Five innovative political sites

Don't like the government? Go out and change it. These five Web sites can help you get informed, get active, and get the jokers out of office.

A handy map on the home page displays how much money each politico receives from political action committees (PACs). You can find out which of these positions (if any) a candidate or representative supports by clicking the "Tag" tab and plugging in your ZIP code. If there's no information available, you can add it along with the source for the information (like a Web site). Site administrators will verify or correct this data later.

Though nominally a wiki, Change Congress isn't very interactive; so far, all you can do is add information about what positions candidates have taken on the four-point pledge. It's also still a long way from being comprehensive, and much of the information displayed on the site was unverified at press time. But the biggest changes always start with small steps.

3. SaysMe.tv

You say you've always secretly yearned to be a political media strategist? Here's your chance. At SaysMe.tv you can select a pre-fab 30-second political ad and run it on one of several TV channels. (At press time SaysMe was available in 11 U.S. cities; by year-end it plans to sell time in 82 cable markets nationwide.) You can choose from a few dozen ads promoting issues on either side of the political stripe, with new ones added each week. Then pick the market and channel where you want it to run and how many times it should appear. Best of all, each ad ends with "Paid for by [your name]."

Of course, air time costs money. A single airing starts at $6 for CNBC in Cleveland and reaches as high as $2750 for TNT in Los Angeles. But you can also submit your own broadcast-quality political spots that others can use --and collect royalties every time someone else airs them.

4. WhereIstand.com

Wanna fight? WhereIstand is the place to register an opinion on any number of hot-button issues, from global warming to the existence of God to whether obese people should pay more for their airline tickets.

It's really more like a social network that's built around opinions, the way Flickr is built around sharing photos or Facebook is built around throwing sheep. You create a profile, post a photo, pick the opinions or issues you want to follow, and then connect with people and chat them up. Site members can post a Yes or No question on any topic, and append their comments to each discussion. You can then compare your opinions with those of other WhereIstand members or of public figures, as compiled by the site's administrators. Though WhereIstand's topics run the gamut, the best arguments focus on politics--in a way that doesn't involve one person screaming at another. That's something you don't often see in an election year.

5. Project Vote Smart

The granddaddy of political action sites, Project Vote Smart calls itself the "Voter's Self-Defense System." Its primary weapon: information. The resolutely nonpartisan site offers one-stop shopping for researching every aspect of a politico's public life.

For example, you can see how your state and federal officials fared on the Political Courage Test, an in-depth questionnaire that takes their temperature on key issues from abortion to welfare (or notes when the cowards declined to fill one out). You can look up how they voted on each bill, search the text of every public speech, see how they were rated by interest groups like the League of Conservation Voters or the NRA, and follow the money trail. You can find out how and where to register to vote in your state, and get guides to every creature in the political food chain--from political parties and media to think tanks and polling organizations. Don't visit a polling booth without checking out this site.

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Dan Tynan

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