GradeGov.com

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Politico’s Victoria McGrane wrote a piece that got my attention about a new Web site that might  help congressional lawmakers stay in touch with their constitutents. The site, GradeGov.com, is still in production, but is supposed to launch next week. It has as its motto: “They work for you. Remind them.”  The site’s goal is to give average Americans a means through which they can have their views reach lawmakers without going through the filter of newspapers, pundits, pollsters or paid staff. This sounds all well and good.

GradeGov.com will be designed to allow users to grade individual congressional lawmakers’ performance, write letters and read others, and help users find and follow lawmakers. The site will require users to log in and provide their ZIP code, among other information, so lawmakers can tell where the users that has graded them lives (i.e., whether they are a constituent or not).

After reading McGrane’s article, several of us here at Sunlight put our heads together in order to suggest what we hope is helpful advice. Here are some of our thoughts and questions:

As the article says, the site’s target community is “average voters” with an overall “nonpartisan” bent. With the outliers of obviously corrupt/incompetent lawmakers aside, there is no consensus in American politics of how to rate politicians. For aggregate evaluation to succeed, there must be some general idea of what “good” and “bad” are.

The site will require users to log in and provide their ZIP code, among other information, so lawmakers can tell when a grade comes from one of their own constituents. How is the site going to verify that a voter lives in a particular district?

McGrane writes that one of the GradeGov.com’s goals will be to help solve the problem of constituent voices being drowned out by countless polls. How can this be accomplished by adding another poll?  At best it’ll be briefly embraced for its novelty, then eventually consigned to the same level of attention given to other forms of constituent communication. It sounds to us to be destined to be an unscientific poll over sampling the demographics that use the Internet most heavily. We already have quite a few of those.

The in district/out of district ratings idea is interesting, but the political science result that people love their representatives and hate everyone else’s is sufficiently strong that we’d be surprised to see much deviation from it for legislators who aren’t already indicted.

In some ways it sounds as if Gradegov.com will have a lot of overlap with what OpenCongress already is doing, such as gathering ZIP codes during registration and displaying the average rating from all OpenCongress users on each individual lawmaker’s page. OpenCongress also provides some district-specific information, including how constituents rate a member.

With all this said, I’ll look forward to seeing the GradeGov.com in action.

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  • Alton

    I have tried to join gradegov for 2 days and have not been successful. I just wondered if anyone else is having the same problems.

  • F for Obama,Pelosi,Reid,and a D for all the Denocrats in Congress.

    Obama promised us change, but we never
    expected Chicago type of change. Has he
    ever heard of the word impeachment? He’s
    going around trying to scare people, well I have the word impeachment for his
    scare tactic.

  • Jeanieinflorida

    I like this idea. We the People wanted a chance to be heard and this is a step that is being made to respond to the American people and their wishes. Thank you and nice work. The teaparties however, will continue. Not only do we want our voices heard, but we are expecting results for some the changes that we do not feel are taking our country in the right direction. We expect our elected officials to stand on behalf of the country, the businessman, the corporation and the people when debating and deciding on issues. Not to be abused by those in power, not to be brain-washed and not to be ill-influenced. American is the land of opportunity, not the land ruled by one or a selected few to make decisions that will ultimately change the foundation of this country and effect the lives of the people without consent. We expect elected officials to work for us and not against us. We expect our elected officials to do a good job and to do their best. We expect them to protect the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. These are those expectations we had when we elected you, and these are those expectations we continue to expect from our elected officials. Thank you for this opportunity to speak on this forum and look forward to addressing this forum in the future.

  • Pucker Chuck

    Americans will revolt soon enough…will it be peaceful, not sure but we can not continue down this path much longer and expect to survive as the America most of us know. I know, I know….gloom and doom guy here….well hope I am wrong, but I rarely am!!!!! Adios Amigo’s

  • Dave & Billie

    There is a lot to say, but one thing I do want to say is: On TV, yesterday, Gun Show in GA. Lots of people were buying a lot and my question is: WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN JULY GETS HERE? What happens if the great one, pass the law, that he want passed, to take all out AMMO away from us. Then what???? What about the HR45?

  • donald

    f, list pelosi,reed,oboma,manual,60%of congress is a total falure,and we will replace them in 18 months thank god

  • Kathy Infusino

    We need to take back our country,clean house and start over. Get rid of Obama and his cabinet. He is not for the people, he is a socialist. I am tried of working and giving it to the government while thay use it on pork. Obama wants is to tax us to death so he can have parties with $100.00 LB steaks etc. Obama is miss using his power as presednt. We do not need immigration,we do not have jobs for our own people,and you want to give jobs to illegals. Obama I give you and your cabinet a FFFF. I can go on and on about everything I hate about you and your cabinet but I do not have all day. You do not know what you are doing you FI.

  • Irene

    reply to Thomas

    Were you equally outraged when you learned that Soros was behind moveon.org?

  • Alton

    I’m happy to grade congress. the question is DO THEY CARE.. The way they are voting today defies logic. They have to know that most of the American people don’t agree with them, I think they just don’t care.

  • Al from NJ

    I am so thankful that someone is speaking up for the millions of people that do not have a voice.

    The only news is so biased towards Obama it’s absurd.

    It seems as if Fox is the only fair and balanced outlet to vent our frustrations.

    Please keep us informed of how we can help.

    Thanks.

  • As a group, we have the most ineffective Congress in the history of this once great nation. The only way to have hope for survival is to throw everyone now in Congress out and start over with all new people who have no connections with the current crop of failures and who might be able to stop the wild spending and not be obligated to give our tax money to those whose votes they bought.

    We could better represent the citizens by merely conducting a random drawing for the congressional offices.

  • Mike

    It also appears that it has failed so far at it’s ‘average’ citizen goal. The grades on the font page are all clearly down the party line. I’m curious what they can/will/are going to do to try and hit that ‘average’ citizen sweetspot.

  • richard rosario

    The best stimulus package that can be give to the manufacturers of the automobil industry is to give people the power of the purchase of the vehicles. For every vehicle purchased with the highest miles per gallon of fuel no matter the vehicle size there will be a $5,000.00 stimulus from the government. This stimulus would make the Ford Chrysler GMC vehicle manufacturer’s continue to make the large vehicle that american enjoy without the intervention of outside governmental obstruction. What does the government ever fix. Nothing I may add. The only thing they can fix is there wages.

  • jeanjldl

    This a very good idea, but i can’t register or log on yet. I want to let the congress and the White House know how we feel about this huge stimulus package and the fact our children will have to pay for it and then it will not be finished for the next 50 years. As far as grading them, they all need to be voted out of office and all new ones be voted in who only stay for 2 years!

    • Hi everyone,

      Just to let you know, the Sunlight Foundation is not affiliated with this GradeGov.com site. This is just a blog post about the site. We have no idea if the site has launched or whether it is simply being swamped and its servers can’t handle the load.

      If you are looking for other resources, the Sunlight Foundation has created quite a few that may interest you. Here are a few of them:

      Capitol Words
      Open Congress
      Read the Bill
      Pass 482
      Earmark Watch

  • Margaret

    Thomas, so what. I feel like I do not have a voice in this America. This is a way to let my elected officials know how I feel. They do not seem to consider my side, just the left.

  • ANNE ZIMMERMANN

    OH HAPPY DAYS!! Good luck. We are hoping for miracles to save our country from destruction and this will help us all.

  • Doug Shue

    THE TEA PARTY IS JUST BEGINNING TO FORM! THIS IS THE SHOT THAT WILL BE HEARD AROUND THE WORLD!!!

  • Thomas

    Non-partisan? Really??

    Gradegov.com is registered to Elizabeth Letchworth.

    http://whois.domaintools.com/gradegov.com

    She is a Republican donor affiliated with Covington & Burling who are a right-wing lobbying firm.

    http://www.campaignmoney.com/political/contributions/elizabeth-letchworth.asp?cycle=08

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Covington_%26_Burling

  • KELLI2L

    When I searched for gradegov.com – nothing came of it. I had to try a second time before I even was able to get some choices showing this Sunlight Foundation website.

    What’s goin on?
    Did your webmaster not enter the right search perameters?

  • KELLI2L

    I saw your interview this morning on FOX news.
    But your website is not registering yet, with Google.

    Why would you advertise before you even have the website setup?

  • Deborah Bernard

    I give the President a grade of F. I am not pleased with anything he has done so far. The Democratic party get an F as well! They are not interested in the welfare of the American people. The DEMS are only interested in their party and how they can enrich their own way of living with our monies.

  • This is a really good site to let us rate your non-representatives in the government.

    It is impossible to get valid information from the mainstream media. The press conference last night was a joke. Asking a 4-part question that would never have been asked of past presidents and took up 10% of the conference was ridiculous. With all of our challenges with the economy, historic debt, auto industry, threats to our country, it was a stupid question and shows how the WH press corps is in their pocket.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Don Ellis

    this congress is like past congresses which
    identified problems and then did nothing to solve them.we all know the problems. The tax code,immigration,health care, home
    land security, energy, social security shortfalls. and now in addition we have a massive stimulus debt. I believe every one in congress for more than six months is a
    crook,a sex deviant, or an idiot.

  • Faith A.

    the smell test.

    BoA Chairman Lewis says he was threatened to buy Merrill Lynch. some threat!

    I would have said “go ahead and fire me and I will take it to the shareholders and TV. Your integrity will suffer.”

  • I will never again vote Rep. or Dem. I’ts time to vote all out of office !!!!.

  • thank you so much for allowing us the opportunity to voice our opinions. i truly hope someone hears…..

  • Lee

    I think this is a GREAT idea! Thanks to the founder for such as outlet. Hopefully we will WAKE UP the the sleeping dragons in DC that are bent on destroying America. As of this moment however, I can’t log in. It’s either very busy or not fully functional – they better increase the band width – it’s going to be a very busy site.