Hobbyists and Lobbyists

OpenCongress.org from the Sunlight Foundation just launched.  It's a site that tracks bills and votes in Congress, along with campaign contributions data (via OpenSecrets) so that you can start drawing connections.  Thomas, the government provided legislative database, was innovative in 1995 when it was introduced, but it lacks permalinks, technorati inbound links, clear vote counts, and a good user interface.  This site has all of these.  The most interesting feature is something that aggregates blog posts around specific bills.  This won't really matter on big bills, like those on the Iraq escalation.  But obscure-ish or niche bills it's hard to find a real conversation (unless you're a lobbyist) because the press doesn't cover them and Thomas doesn't have permalinks.  And the work of governing is mostly done with bills out of the limelight.

Open Congress also launched the Open Congress blog, which has a pretty good nonpartisan rundown of the bills on tap in both the House and Senate.

It's a good site, useful if you're into the whole governing thing.  I imagine that post-2009, that's going to be a much bigger part of what we blog about.  I consult for Sunlight because I am very interested in seeing how the internet can help open up governance, and these are the kinds of high leverage innovations that subtly change how the government operates.

Tags: Open Congress, Open Thread (all tags)



Re: Hobbyists and Lobbyists


by johnalive 2007-02-26 04:21AM | 0 recs
Thomas permalinks

Thomas does have permalinks. It's just that it stupidly doesn't provide them to you (except in rare circumstances when you stumble across them) and instead just explains how to construct them manually. I can't believe that it's been that way for years.

by KCinDC 2007-02-26 04:43AM | 0 recs
How does this relate to Govtrack?

It does rather seem to be covering the same territory.

And I thought that the guy behind Govtrack was helping in the Open House Project that Sunlight were also involved in.

I'd hope that the common aim was to produce a single site that was the most comprehensive and user-friendly front-end to THOMAS that's reasonably possible.

by skeptic06 2007-02-26 04:50AM | 0 recs
Re: Hobbyists and Lobbyists

I like the idea of a one-click option to write a letter to bill sponsors, but I doubt if Congress necessarily wants it to be that easy to send them letters. Have you ever tried to use the .gov services to contact a house of representative member who doesn't represent your own zip code? Even the Senate's .gov service requires you to fill out a cumbersome form before sending a message. Be interesting to see how opencongress.org resolves the existing communication barriers.

by johnalive 2007-02-26 04:51AM | 0 recs
ColoradoState Legislature Waay Behind the Curve

I actually met the guy who does legislative tracking and archival in Colorado, which is more of a recording job than anything. I've actually tried to look into State voting records, and couldn't find it anywhere, so I asked him how you would find out who voted for which bill. He thought for a minute and then agreed that it was practically impossible.

I'll be it was intentionally setup that way.

by MetaData 2007-02-26 05:19AM | 0 recs


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