At Sunlight, we spend a lot of time following the money in politics in an attempt to measure influence in the legislative process. While we obviously believe in the benefit of shining a light on these connections, the truth is that it's only part of the story.
To understand influence, we must also have knowledge of what is being influenced and how. A clear understanding of the policy process is a transparency issue and the reason projects like GovTrack, Open Congress, the Real Time Congress iPhone application and the Congress application for Android exist. While these projects are great, there's more work to be done in painting the entire picture of how legislation is made. With our next experiment, a briefing book mobile application, we're moving in that direction.
The application aims to give users a better understanding of legislation and the legislative process by linking to the research and opinions that influence how policy is formed and ultimately judged. From editorials in major publications to the text of the legislation itself with all types of research in between, we hope to put in the palm of your hand the same information that Washington insiders rely on when making policy decisions.
We're starting out with the debate surrounding the New START Treaty and hope to soon release a briefing book on the Bush Tax Cuts--two major legislative initiatives in the lame duck Congress. Like the Sunlight Foundation, these applications are nonpartisan. The purpose of these apps is to show you all sides of the policy process, regardless of political leanings, to teach you about the policy process and to empower you to make your own decisions.
To install the app, point your iPhone browser to http://newstart.briefingbook.org
We'd love your help with this. This is an open experiment to see how we can best present the meaningful parts of the legislative process in a compact, relatively simple to understand package. Whether it be advice on how to best present this information or a suggestion on information that belongs in a briefing book, we'd love to hear your feedback.
As of now, the mobile application is limited to iPhone users (lame, I know.) We only had a couple of days to put it together and much of the code came from our existing Real Time Congress application. Because the lame duck session of Congress is only expected to last a couple more weeks, we decided to put it out in limited form instead of waiting for everything to be clean before releasing. Expect the application to play nicely with other browsers and devices very soon.