Citizens are fed up with the behavior of people who run government. That was a common theme in community meetings, focus groups and polling conducted recently in the Akron area by the University of Akron and the Akron Beacon Journal.
In particular, there was disgust with the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on negative campaign advertising for one purpose: Try to confuse some of us enough that we won't vote for their opponent.
And there was a feeling of helplessness about what regular people can do to send the message that this behavior is unacceptable.
To give citizens some power in this matter, the non-profit organization ProPublica has devised an online opportunity for regular folks to take on the big money in Washington.
Northeast Ohio has become one of the leaders. The Akron Beacon Journal, Northeast Ohio universities, the Civic Commons, Akron area faith leaders, Round River Consulting, the Akron Neighborhood Trust and other community have joined the effort.
You can help.
But first, what's going on?
Television stations in the nation's 50 largest media markets must keep a record of the political organizations buying TV time and how much they spend.
However -- and here's the problem - TV stations are permitted to keep the information in a format that renders analysis almost impossible.
That means secretive groups are able to distribute millions at TV stations in different cities and states, and unless someone collects records from all television markets, the groups can disappear without detection.
ProPublica has launched a citizen movement called "Free the Files" to beat this system.
In a matter of a few seconds, anyone can create a ProPublica identity and become a volunteer.
After joining, ProPublica's web site will display a document from a TV station on one side of the screen, and on the other will be a few blanks into which the volunteer types the information found on the document.
Once two people have entered identical information for the same form, the information goes into the ProPublica database accessible to anyone.
ProPublica is conducting an ongoing analysis of the records for critical information and trends. For example, the Cleveland, Akron, Canton market has been the most successful to date for records entered.
The "Free the Files" site can be found at http://www.propublica.org/series/free-the-files
To become a contributor, visit Free the Files or click on the "give me a file" button on this page; or choose a file directly from one of these Ohio markets to get started: Columbus, Cleveland-Akron-Canton, Cincinnati.