Why real political power can be found in Ada, Oklahoma

Ever been to Ada, Oklahoma? I have, many times. Grew up in Oklahoma and rode through Ada three or four times a year with my family as we drove from Oklahoma City to Tyler, Texas, where my parents grew up. Ada wasn't a big town then and it's not a big town now.

Even so, Ada is one of the genuine power spots in American politics. If you doubt me, check out Dave Levinthal's fascinating “Tiny Tracts Put Political Zip in 2010 Elections” on OpenSecrets.org. Here's Levinthal's entry on Ada: “Little Ada, Okla., 74820? The gambling industry — no small thanks to it being the home of the Chickasaw Nation, which operates a nearby casino.”

Levinthal also looks at other more famous politically powerful zip codes like Hollywood's 90210 and Manhattan's 10021, among the nation's 44,000 five-digit zip codes, and discovers all kinds of interesting information, such as two zip codes that are intensely partisan:

“There's ZIP code 06831 in Greenwich, Conn., where more than $3 million has this election cycle found its way into federal-level political coffers — a majority of it benefiting Democrats. (The state has a whole has contributed less than $23 million.)

“And there's ZIP code 33480 in Palm Beach, Fla., where residents have donated a massive $2.2 million to political interests — a majority benefiting Republicans. (All other ZIP codes in Florida, from those in Miami and Tampa to Tallahassee and Fort Lauderdale, have together contributed about $68 million.)”

Levinthal's piece is one of a superb series of reports from the Center for Responsive Politics this past week, published under the rubric of “Races to Watch: Investigating the cash behind Election 2010.”

Like me, you likely won't agree with every observation or conclusion in this series, but it's guaranteed to tell you lots of facts about campaign finance, special interests, and contemporary political tactics that you didn't know before you started following the series. This is a journalism series that deserves one of the profession's highest awards for public service reporting.

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