Are Congressional Web Sites Tools for Transparency? — 2nd Update


We’ve crossed the 200 barrier–200 member Web sites investigated, and 335 (actually, 336 now that we’ve added D.C. delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton to the list) to go. Some interesting stats–the average time for completion is 7 minutes, the average score remains a hair under 30 (29.9319 for those who prefer precise numbers). Some 65 unique users have taken part so far, and 89 of the 200 completed investigations were submitted anonymously.

As of this writing, a citizen journalists have begun (but not yet finished) three investigations, including one of the Web site of Rep. Mary Bono. Just a footnote–when we were developing this project, I spent a little time looking at several members’ sites, including hers. And after looking at it, I toyed with the idea of including a section on “unintended transparency.”

Like many members, Bono offers photo albums — here’s one of a few of her office meetings, with the likes of the Indigo Girls, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, the Cowboy Junkies and Gloria Estefan. And here are some D.C. events she’s attended–including photos of her accepting a “GRAMMY” award at the Recording Academy’s “GRAMMY’s [sic] on the Hill event,” which, the site tells us, she won “for her work in pursuing strong copyright protection in Congress.”

Of course, the Recording Academy is an organization that lobbies Congress over, among other things, copyright protection (it also lobbies under the name National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences). And Rep. Bono has a personal stake in copyright protection–her largest asset being the Bono Collection Trust, which pays royalties for her late husband’s songwriting.

It’s not particularly hard to find this information out–indeed, as the last link above shows, it’s already been reported. But if our protection as constituents and citizens against conflicts of interest by members of Congress is public disclosure, shouldn’t that public disclosure be available on the Web sites that we as citizens and taxpayers are funding?