WASHINGTON, DC – As part of its efforts to work with Congress on how to make itself more open in the Internet age, the Sunlight Foundation is launching The Open Senate Project. This bipartisan, collaborative initiative will study the Senate’s current information-sharing practices to recommend how to improve public access to the Senate’s work on the Web.
This project is modeled off of Sunlight’s parallel initiative, the Open House Project. Founded in 2007, the Open House Project catalyzed public discussion of congressional transparency.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has endorsed Sunlight’s Open Senate Project. "I welcome ideas for how the U.S. Senate can use technology and the Internet to create more transparency for the operations of the U.S. Senate, and to bring us closer to our constituents," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in response to the project's launch. "To that end, I look forward to the recommendations from the Open Senate Project, which will be an open, public collaborative effort."
Through an email list and blog, open government leaders from inside and outside Congress and citizens alike will develop recommendations for attainable technological reforms. John Wonderlich, program director for the Sunlight Foundation, will lead the effort in collaboration with project coordinators Josh Tauberer, creator of the nonpartisan Web site GovTrack.us, and Jon Henke, a former Senate staffer who now blogs at TheNextRight.com. Sunlight encourages citizens to give their input by joining the group’s email list.
"We are excited that Senate leaders have recognized the importance of public oversight and evaluation of their online transparency, and we look forward to working with them," said John Wonderlich. "This initiative will give more citizens a voice to advocate for straightforward reforms to strengthen digital access to the work of the Senate.”
The Open House Project was successful in jump-starting a public discussion that resulted in improvements in the methods that the House of Representatives uses to make its work available online, including releasing legislative data in more user-friendly formats and establishing new rules that allow lawmakers to use Web services like YouTube and Twitter to communicate with their constituents. A full review of the project's progress is available here.
The Open Senate Project will present its recommendations to Senate leaders in the spring of 2009.
The Sunlight Foundation supports, develops and deploys new Internet technologies to make information about Congress and the federal government more accessible to the American people. Through its projects and grant-making, Sunlight serves as a catalyst to create greater political transparency and to foster more openness and accountability in government. Visit SunlightFoundation.com to learn more about Sunlight's projects, including PublicMarkup.org, EarmarkWatch.org and OpenCongress.org.