Transparent Lawmakers Win


In January of 2007, freshman Democratic congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand became the first member of the House of Representatives to post her daily schedule on her official web site, a historic step for transparency in Congress. At the time, many feared that this level of transparency would harm her reelection prospects in a mostly Republican district. Those fears turned out to be wrong. Last night, every non-retiring candidate posting their daily schedule online was reelected to Congress, proving that transparency does not harm electoral prospects.

Since Rep. Gillibrand’s daily schedule went online, eight other lawmakers (including Sen. Jon Tester, the first senator to post a daily schedule) began posting daily schedules – you can view a map of their meetings here. They include Reps. John Doolittle, Dennis Rehberg, Kathy Castor, Jan Schakowsky, and John Yarmuth and Sens. Tester, Max Baucus, and Bill Nelson. Of these lawmakers, Rep. Doolittle retired and Sens. Tester and Nelson were not up for reelection. Reps. Rehberg, Castor, Schakowsky, and Yarmuth and Sen. Baucus all joined Rep. Gillibrand in winning reelection.

From her first day, Rep. Gillibrand has been a leader on operating a unilaterally transparent congressional office. Aside from posting her daily schedule, she was among the first lawmakers to post on her web site a list of her earmark requests and her personal financial disclosure. Since then, unilateral transparency (the disclosure of information not required by laws or congressional rules) has become much more prevalent throughout the House and Senate.

Today, over forty lawmakers disclose their earmark requests to some degree, while dozens more provide some lesser form of earmark disclosure. Others post their personal financial disclosures and travel reports.

The movement towards transparency continues unabated. The proven ability of transparent lawmakers to win reelection provides further space for more lawmakers to operate in an open and transparent manner.