At the end of last week the Sunlight Foundation made a number of new grants. We’re really excited about the potential of each of them.
The work of ReadtheBill.org (which I’ve talked about before) is a hugely important effort. It could end the practice of ramming bills through Congress in the dark of night — bills that are filled with favors for special interests, earmarks, and heaven only knows ((truly) what else. And think of what activists can cook up (particularly online) if they have 72 hours to read legislation and get citizens to weigh in. We think that ReadtheBill.org will make a huge difference in making Congress’ work more transparent and in engaging citizens.
The other grants we made, though not as large, have potentially big impact too. The Institute on State Money and Politics‘ is plowing ahead into the Web 2.0 world by developing an API — the first of its kind — to disseminate massive amounts of its campaign-finance data, open source style, on the Internet. We hope they will pave the way for other organizations into the brave new high tech world. We’re pleased to have had a role in stimulating their interest in this through conversations initiated by the folks running Sunlight Labs.
A third grant is to WashingtonWatchdog.org which is developing one of the most comprehensive and powerful internet-based research tools we’ve seen. Our grant is to help with them an immediate hardware upgrade so they can finish their prototype. When this site is ready to be launched, it will provide a way for citizens to stay on top of legislative and regulatory developments — in real time — and provide a law research library (think Code of Federal Regulations, Executive Order, all Public Laws) relevant to over 100 issues. What you see on the site now isn’t user-friendly — the interface is still down the road a bit — but we think that tranparency effort can be transforming to the way citizens participate in lawmaking.
And our fourth grant is to Room Eight, a very popular New York state-focused blog. The grant will allow them to expand their coverage to their Congressional delegation. We are excited by their work and the work of hundreds of other bloggers who cover state politics, and we feel like this grant will allow this blog to develop a prototype of how other state-oriented bloggers can expand their own work to federal office holders. Noone is a better watchdog that the citizens who lawmakers represent.
That’s all for the moment.