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Around the Watchdogs: Burgers, casinos and Election Day madness

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Photo - A data visualization of Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign spending from the blog Binders Full of Burgers.
A data visualization of Gov. Mitt Romney's presidential campaign spending from the blog Binders Full of Burgers.
Watchdog,Jennifer Peebles
President Obama's campaign spending burger, from Binders Full of Burgers. Click to enlarge.

It's time for our Just-A-Few-More-Hours-'Til-We-Get-Those-Campaign-Ads-Off-Our-TV-Screens edition of Around the Watchdogs. In honor of the occasion, our photo today is a mouthwatering data visualization from the wonderful Tumblr blog Binders Full of Burgers, which expresses spending by the two major presidential candidates as food.

Some Election Day-themed items of note:

• A federal judge has unsealed the identities of donors to the dark money group WTP, also called American Tradition Partnership, Pro Publica reports.

• Not looking forward to those long lines at the polls today? Mashable takes on why you can't just vote online. (Note: An exception is the state of New Jersey, which is allowing residents to vote online because of Hurricane Sandy.)

• Folks who live in nursing homes often have their voting rights violated, Pro Publica reports.

• The watchdog group Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington is calling for the Internal Revenue Service to bust the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for engaging in political activity that is prohibited for such nonprofit groups.

• Got last-minute questions about campaign finance? If you're on Reddit, check out the question-and-answer session the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics is doing at 2 p.m. Eastern today. (Redditors know such sessions as "AMAs" -- "Ask Me Anything." President Obama did one a couple of months ago.)

• No matter who wins today, the Sunlight Foundation has laid out its priorities for the next administration to improve government transparency. At the top of the list are the DISCLOSE Act and the Lobbyist Disclosure Enhancement Act. It also includes a push for more government data to be posted online and to be available “in bulk and structured formats.” (Personally, I’m hoping someone will introduce the No PDF Act, which would ban government FOIA officers from trying to give out PDFs of things that they have stored in Excel.)

• The presidential election gets most of the attention today, but don't forget that you can also get data online about your local Congressional races, thanks to the folks at the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics. Just plug in your Congressional district on this search page and it'll give you the numbers. And the Center for Public Integrity delves into the backstory on some of today's Congressional smackdowns, which are the product of redistricting processes that were often shrouded in secrecy.

But life goes on outside today's elections. Some other highlights:

Show me the federal aid: With millions still affected by Hurricane Sandy, the Center for Responsive Politics looks at who's been lobbying FEMA this year. Topping the list of 183 groups are the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, Calif., who have taken an interest in revisions to the national flood insurance program, Russ Choma writes.

Gotta keep those slots dry: Millions of federal, state and local tax dollars went to build storm defenses for Atlantic City’s casinos -- but not for the thousands of poor residents nearby, who were driven from their homes by flood waters last week, Bloomberg News reports.

Unloose lips: The Defense Department's Inspector General will look into whether the Pentagon is being too free with its "classified" stamp, Secrecy News reports.

The gang that couldn't shoot straight: A private security contractor being paid millions of taxpayer dollars to provide security to a big U.S. air base in Iraq hired "hundreds of Ugandan security guards who did not meet firearms proficiency requirements," Neil Gordon writes at POGO Blog. The firm also doctored records to make it look like the guards had scored "marksman" ratings on the Army qualification course.

Can you hear me now? (Part I): Uncle Sam wants to listen in and wants you to stop complaining about it, David Cole writes in The Nation:

What if the government was tapping your phone unconstitutionally, and there was nothing you could do about it? That’s just life in the United States of America, at least according to the Justice Department. On Monday, October 29, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. argued in the Supreme Court that, for all practical purposes, the most expansive authority Congress has ever given the government to intercept Americans’ international phone calls and e-mails could not be challenged in court, even by the very people most likely to be harmed by it.

Can you hear me now? (Part II): A federal program meant to help poor Americans afford phone service by giving them free cell phones is still "rampant with fraud" even after an overhaul was supposed to clean it up. That's the word from two TV stations in Oklahoma, KWTV-Oklahoma City and KOTV-Tulsa. (Spotted via IRE's Extra! Extra! blog.)

Not-so-smart grid: Colorado taxpayers are being asked to pick up the $44 million tab on a failed "smart grid" program, The Denver Post reports. (Spotted via Pro Publica's #muckreads.)

Oops: The state of South Carolina had a data security breach that has put millions of state taxpayers' personal information at risk, ReadWriteWeb writes.

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Jennifer Peebles

Digital Editor
The Washington Examiner