WASHINGTON, DC — The Sunlight Foundation today launches a free telephone service that helps people learn more about how their representatives in Congress are voting on bills and raising campaign money. All you need is a phone line.
Call on Congress is a toll free number — 1-888-907-6886 — that provides instant information, in both English and Spanish, on how lawmakers are representing their constituents. Users can also be connected directly to the DC office of their representative and senators and even get details on where to vote on Election Day.
“Nearly 96 percent of people in the country have access to telephone service. Yet, the percentage of the population with Internet access is significantly lower, especially among rural dwellers, senior citizens and those without high school diplomas,” said Ellen Miller, co-founder and executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. “Call on Congress helps bridge the ‘digital divide’ by giving anyone with a phone line a free and meaningful way to understand their government and hold elected officials accountable.”
Upon calling the toll free number for Call on Congress, users enter their ZIP code to hear:
- The top campaign contributors for the member of Congress selected;
- A biography and committee assignments for the lawmaker;
- A direct transfer to the Capitol Hill office for the lawmaker; and
- Contact information for the local election board in advance of Election Day.
Call on Congress also provides a simple way to look up congressional votes, hear the status of bills and review the House and Senate floor schedules for the week. It also has an option for callers to receive bill updates via text message.
Our in-house developers at Sunlight Labs built Call on Congress and its code is open source and reusable. At the core of the tool is Twilio, a telephone infrastructure that enabled Sunlight to develop the voice app.
Call on Congress utilizes the Sunlight Labs Congress API to provide the location look-up, biography and committee membership information, the Transparency Data API to provide campaign finance information, the Real Time Congress API for congressional voting records and the Turbo Vote API for voter information.
Sunlight is partnering with a number of partners to promote Call on Congress as a tool that every citizen can use from any phone, no Internet service required.
“In the new world of digital media and communications technology, it is essential for all Americans to have the tools they need to make informed decisions. Call on Congress makes it easier by putting legislative and electoral information at the other end of a phone line,” said Mike McGrath, chief information officer, National Civic League, which promotes government accountability, civic activism and grassroots, community democracy.
“What a great one-stop shop for up-to date information on Americans' elected officials; what they've been up to, as well as how constituents can contact them and weigh in. The Sunlight Foundation is using technology to streamline democracy and make congressional offices more accessible to the people they're supposed to serve,” said Ben Betz, online strategy manager for People For the American Way.
“We are proud to partner with Call on Congress, a tool that will help empower our community by providing an easy way to connect with Congress and access vital election information,” said
John Garcia, director of civic engagement, LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
“Call on Congress opens up our democracy, whether you have a computer and broadband or not. It's an easy-to-use tool that helps bridge the digital divide and puts crucial information in everyone's hand,” said Jeff Perlstein, director of strategic engagement at ZeroDivide.
The Sunlight Foundation is a non-partisan non-profit that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable. Visit SunlightFoundation.com to learn more about Sunlight’s projects, including InfluenceExplorer.com and Party Time.