Good Stuff


Posting’s been light this week. I spent a few days in New York meeting with other funders (JEHT Foundation and Open Society Institute), brainstorming with our far-flung staff and consultants (a virtual workplace is good, but sometimes you just have to meet face-to-face!), and talking with groups about their work. I’ve also been doing interviewing for new staff.

I’m quite fascinated by several groups’ work that we’ve looked at recently. Rafael DeGennaro has created a potentially powerful populist movement over the simple notion that lawmakers ought to actually read a bill before they vote on it. His (BTW you can find him at the YearKos convention this week), presents a positive agenda — every piece of legislation must be posted for 72 hours before it’s voted on —  that will enable citizens, activists, journalists, indeed everyone, to know more about what is going on in Congress and to express their opinions about it. Certainly one of Sunlight’s goals is to not only make information available, but also to make it available in "real time" so that democracy is enlivened by civic engagement. Seems to us that DeGennaro has singled out a pretty basic element to making that happen. Following his "Mystery Bills" feature is a must.

We’re also intrigued by a project marshaled by Les Blomberg — WashingtonWatchdog. (Alas, not much of a web presence yet.) His effort offers a powerful Internet-based tool that would allow people to stay on top of current legislative and regulatory developments on specific issues. 

The scope of the information already in their databases is mind-boggling. It includes a federal law library that has all the laws (from the U.S. Code and Public Laws), rules and regulations (from the Code of Federal Regulations), and Executive Orders. It contains a research library of some 280,000 federal documents, more than one million citations linking related documents to each other, and more than 3.7 million votes cast by Senators and Representatives. For each issue, researchers could customize the library containing all the documents concerning their specific issue in the Congressional Record, Federal Register, Presidential and Executive Documents, House and Senate Bills, House and Senate Roll Call Votes, House and Senate Committee Reports, House and Senate Committee Hearing Transcripts, and Government Accounting Office Reports.

The group also plans to build into the system the ability to analyze these bills and documents and voting records; the ability to create customized action alerts, a Wikipedia-like encyclopedia for various issues. What an incredible resource this might be.

There’s a lot of good work going on.