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.

There's more...


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