DemLabs blog

Tracking a complex case of corruption? Use a relationship map to follow the money.


How to map a swamp
It's easy to get lost in a swamp of data. Step back for a better perspective of the swamp and the creatures living there. Welcome to the swamp of corruption exposed by the impeachment inquiry!

Swamp creatures thrive in the dark. Similarly, corruption involves concealed actions and subterfuge.

Relationship mapping apps make sense of a swamp of data. They create interactive maps to reveal connections that might otherwise be overlooked. We used Kumu, a free visualization app to understand the people and interactions in the impeachment inquiry.

Data visualization provides perspective and makes information easier to understand. Visualization organizes different forms of data (articles, podcasts and videos) into a map that's easy to understand and share.

This impeachment inquiry map, for instance is timely example of the power of data visualization. It includes twenty five individuals, six organizations and dozens of news sources, images and website links organized behind a simple interface. It shows relationships, hidden connections and how to present data clearly.

Kumu lets you focus on just one person or expand your focus to see all their connections. Place your cursor over a person's image to analyze who they are connected to. Click on their image to get details on an individual or on the line connecting them to someone else to understand that relationship.

In this example we wanted to explore the people connected with Marie L. Yovanovitch. How were Pete Sessions and Donald Trump Jr. involved with her ouster? What role did Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Rick Perry and Bill Barr play?

People may be connected through one or more intermediaries instead of directly. A relationship map reveals such connections which could potentially influence someone's actions.

The proposed Kentucky steel mill project, for example is a connection in common between Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch and Mitch McConnell. Joe Scarborough nick-named Mitch McConnell as "Moscow Mitch" partially as a result of this project.

Data in context
Visualization organizes information so readers can first get the big picture, and then be able to drill down for more details. A link to Open Secrets, for instance provides details on the donations made by Harry Sargeant III (a prominent Republican donor) to Rudy Giuliani. Readers can also find out about other donations by Sargeant with that link.

Impeachment Inquiry Relationship Map


Kumu (meaning "source of wisdom" in Hawaiian) is a wonderful, free app that visualizes relationships. The maps created with it can be freely shared as links on social media or be embedded in websites. Maps can even be updated as more swamp creatures are found!

Use Kumu relationship maps to make the complex easy to understand. The more voters understand, the better their decisions. Learn more about how to create a relationship map here.

Co-Founder, DemLabs

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