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The state of the union

At election time, and other times, political sites are everywhere.

This month’s political races could effect big changes in the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, not to mention in many states as they elect new governors. With so much at stake, the national parties have poured money into TV advertising campaigns for crucial Senate races. But for knowledge that goes beyond surface-level platitudes, savvy voters will turn to some hard-hitting political Web sites.

Dredging through sludge

It’s no fluke that the Drudge Report is still one of the top news spots on the Web, ever since its rise to infamy a few years ago in breaking the Clinton/Lewinsky affair. Its old-fashioned commitment to black-and-white text (while somewhat eye-wearying), with a single banner ad at the top, lets visitors immediately concentrate on headlines, or on seeking stories from the many new sites or columnists this site lists. It’s also refreshing to visit a site that’s unafraid to mix the thoughtful with the sensational–including content by E! and People alongside the sober musings of George Will. In a democracy, after all, it takes all kinds.

The sounds of Washington

Those addicted to C-Span’s around-the-clock Congress coverage needn’t fret when they’ve missed a broadcast. At C-Span.org, visitors can tune into Web-exclusive interviews on upcoming legislative action, hear live, daily audio feeds from Senate committee hearings, and watch recent televised programs, such as news conferences, ceremonies, or national or state congressional debates.

State of the states

Web surfers concerned about state government should turn to Stateline.org for answers. Operated by the Pew Center on the States, a research organization developed by the University of Richmond, it focuses on not just key races that get lots of national media attention, but also on everyday policy decisions such as transportation, land use, and welfare. Visitors also can sign up for My Stateline, which, upon login, will show them stories from as many states as they like, on as many–or few–issues as they like. My Stateline will also send e-mail alerts about important developments.

Follow the money

When the rhetoric gets too thick and the spin too slick, there’s no better place to turn than Opensecrets.org. This site, developed by nonpartisan, nonprofit research group the Center for Responsive Politics, shows the latest dollar amounts raised and spent by and for political candidates. Opensecrets provides a straightforward tutorial on campaign finance laws, and lets a visitor look up who’s giving and getting money–by state, affiliation or corporation. It also takes a look at the outcome of legislation on certain policies. On bioterrorism legislation, for example, the site links certain bill provisions to the pharmaceutical companies that lobbied for them, and notes how much was spent.

Independent voice

Speaking of the influence of money, it can be tough to find political news by sources that don’t depend on ad money to survive. But TomPaine.com, named after the revolutionary author who first advocated for a Declaration of Independence from England, is one such site. Featuring regular interviews with newsmakers as well as commentary and critique of mainstream media, TomPaine.com strives to give readers an original, thoughtful take on the issues of the day.

Effervescent finish

For political news without the side effects of ennui and despair, explore Pop Politics’ take on how America filters its weightier issues into its books, movies, and TV shows. Recent themes, for example, have included an exploration of our casual use of war metaphors in everyday conversation, bringing the political right back around to the personal once again.

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