Welcoming the Huffington Post Investigative Fund’s citizen journalists

As the health care fight intensifies, a wide range of research and journalism initiatives are taking a closer look at the special interests seeking to influence upcoming legislation. One of the more innovative efforts is the Health Care Investigative Unit, a project of the Huffington Post Investigative Fund. We’re pleased to announce that starting this week, LittleSis will be partnering with the HCIU as it follows the money in the healthcare debate and tracks lobbyists’ connections to Congress.

The HCIU is mobilizing a team of citizen journalists to dig deeper on the key players in the healthcare debate:

The true influence of lobbyists, health care companies, and special interest groups is unprecedented as this historic battle looms. The Health Care Investigative Unit’s large-scale, citizen-powered effort will cover this influence from new perspectives and unearth new facts about how Congress really makes decisions.

The Huffington Post Investigative Fund is a brand new, non-profit venture that launched in early April with the support of the Huffington Post and Atlantic Philanthropies.  It came out of the gate with a collaborative spirit, promising to publish all content under a Creative Commons license, and is poised to break new ground in the field of investigative journalism.  The citizen journalism unit is one element of this, and will work in support of other journalists there; scoops produced by the HCIU may be picked up and developed by reporters and editors at the Huffington Post Investigative.

Check out the group page we’ve set up for the HCIU, and join up if you’re interested in taking part (you’ll need to sign up as an analyst).

The investigative unit will start out by using LittleSis to track down ex-Congressional staffers who are now health care lobbyists, especially those linked to the Representatives and Senators on their watch list. These individuals are sure to play a role in influencing health care reform legislation, and the HCIU will help bring transparency to the legislative process by identifying them, tracking their key relationships, and shedding light on their lobbying activities.

This effort will build on the work of Paul Blumenthal of the Sunlight Foundation, who has been mapping the ties between healthcare lobbyists and members of the Senate Finance Committee. The Washington Post also recently identified 350 lobbyists who used to be members of Congress and healthcare lobbyists, but opted to keep the list to themselves. Together, we’ll build it better and make it available here at LittleSis.

Sound like a worthwhile project? To sign up for the HCIU itself, go here. Here at LittleSis, we’ve created a group page for the HCIU, complete with instructional video and research tips. Join up, add what you can in your spare time, and take part in a new, collaborative form of investigative journalism.