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New Website Lets Chileans Browse Their Lawmakers' Financial Ties, Reported and Otherwise

BY Nick Judd | Monday, October 24 2011

Over the weekend, Fundacíon Ciudadano Inteligente released Inspector de Intéreses, a site for Chilean citizens to explore possible conflicts of interest between their legislators and entities with which they have some financial relationship.

Elected officials in Chile are required to publicly disclose their assets, but Ciudadano Inteligente's research indicates that officials have not been consistently adhering to those rules. Based on research conducted between 2010 and 2011, the site offers a means to explore data gleaned from legislators' official financial disclosures and from three other sources: Dicom, affiliated with Equifax, which keeps personal financial information on private citizens in Chile; the Chilean tax agency, Servicio de Impuestos Internos; and Diario Oficial, which maintains a public summary of financial information about Chilean companies, including parties involved in those companies. Ciudadano Inteligente writes on the Inspector de Intereses website that it reached out to legislators with their findings, giving a one-week window for them to dispute any of their findings.

The results are cross-referenced with the foundation's existing database of legislator voting records to show instances where a lawmaker's vote may have been influenced by their own financial holdings.

Users select an industry — like agriculture or mining — and they'll get a list of lawmakers with financial interests in that industry, both declared or undeclared. Visitors can also start with a lawmaker and get the same readout in reverse.

The site generates graphs for every federal lawmaker to show both what portion of their financial interests are in each sector and to show the ratio of investments they've disclosed to investments that were uncovered in other public records. And in a list view of entities that the legislator is connected to, possible conflicts of interests are flagged with a siren icon.

Elizabeth Wolf, who reached out to me about the project on the foundation's behalf, told me the site exists to create accountability for public officials who seem to be getting a pass on how inconsistently they report their own financial interests.

"If we weren't looking at this, nobody would have a mechanism to hold parliamentarians responsible for what they're filling in, how they're filling it out," Wolf told me.