HALLOWELL — The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has launched a new online tool to help citizens research public officials and issues.

Be Your Own Watchdog is a free website that aggregates information from a variety of sources on elections, campaign finance, lobbying, legislation, government ethics, and more.

The center, a nonprofit news service, developed Be Your Own Watchdog to give the public easy access to the same information reporters have.

“There’s an old saying in newspapers that explains this new project,” center Publisher John Christie said in a press release. “Veteran reporters would ask new reporters what they would do if their mother says ‘I love you.’ The answer is : ‘Check it out.'”

Christie said Be Your Own Watchdog will help voters, for example, check out the sources of  candidates’ campaign contributions and income, to investigate whether the candidates may be influenced by lobbyists.

Be Your Own Watchdog was developed with the help of an advisory committee and partially funded by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation.

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