I just sent this out as an email to Sunlight supporters, because it’s really been a whirlwind month – and while it’s important for us all to know what’s going on, it’s also sometimes hard to keep up. I’ve been working in advocacy for years and I don’t know that I’ve ever seen so much happen in so many different arenas in such a short period of time for a cause.
When it comes to Transparency, there hasn’t been a time like the last four weeks since our movement for an open government began. As I write this:
- we’re on the verge of having two government transparency bills to rally behind in the House and Senate.
- the White House is hosting the Open Government Initiative to seek our best ideas in making government more open and participatory.
- thousands of new government data feeds are available through Data.gov (and we’re making sure technologists around the country use it with the Apps for America 2 competition).
- the Speaker of the House has required an unprecedented level of disclosure for House Member expenditures.
- people are checking out the makeover we gave the Supreme Court. (Their website that is.)
Big month! …and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.What’s beyond exciting for me as the new engagement director at Sunlight is to be able to jump in with all of you and keep this momentum up in Congress, in every government agency, and into the states. Were the DC summer humidity not already so overpowering, one might conjure rapidly growing snowballs. But I digress.
We want to make sure you know what’s going on – and more importantly, hear what you have to say – so below is a first in what we’d like to be a bigger and longer conversation with you about what’s happening to open our government because of your support. Our aim is simple: make sure we’re all as informed and engaged as possible because we are taking on a monumental mission, and it’s going to take all of us.
We have a lot to do to turn our government into the transparent and accountable body it was always intended to be, but there are great strides being made every day as we bring our elected leaders into the Sunlight. Take a moment and be optimistic – even if you do work in politics!
I just called a CVS on Capitol Hill and they’re all stocked up on sunblock. It’s a good thing, because through this summer and beyond, we’re thrilled to be working with you all to make sure our leaders need much, much more of it.
– Thousands of you joined Sunlight to demand that Congress actually Read the Bill they write before it’s allowed to have an impact on our lives. Amazing that congress has been allowed to operate this long without reading their legislation, but we have been seeing great progress toward making that a requirement. We just received word that there is now bipartisan sponsorship for a new 72-hour rule bill to be introduced next week. Granted, it’s ridiculous that we need a law to tell those elected to serve us that they must make time to read legislation before signing it, but since we do, we’ll make sure our voice is heard with a goal of delivering at least 15,000 petition signatures.
– On the Senate side, we’re finally seeing headway on S.482 which will require Senate offices to report their campaign finances online. This is another no-brainer, folks. Thankfully, the Majority Leader’s office has asked that it be pushed through. Sunlight’s “lobbyist that lobbyist’s love to hate,” Lisa Rosenberg, is keeping us updated on what actions we can take, and we’ll be sure to do the same for you.
– Nearly 1,000 technologists around the country have now joined Sunlight Labs in discussing, sharing, and creating applications for government through the Labs’ first and now SECOND Apps for America competition. This is truly remarkable. Much of the data underneath government lies only in dark, locked recesses, and this growing army is on the front lines of shining Sunlight where it’s never been before. Remember that scene in Indiana Jones where the government hides the Arc of the Covenant in that big warehouse? These guys are digging it out. Join the conversation if you’re a developer; it’s at least as fun as World of Warcraft …maybe more.
– In rethinking transparency in government, we’re also rethinking what it looks like. At least online. The latest in our Redesigning Government series – the Supreme Court – has gotten a lot of attention, and it’s no surprise that the White House’s Data.gov looks an awful lot like our mock ups. Have other ideas for sites we should help the government rethink? Send your suggestions our way!
– Our Transparency blogger network continues to grow, and we were excited this week to meet with folks from the Open Kansas Initiative. It’s the type of work that we think can be replicated by active citizens in every state, and we’re going to be working with people in as many states as possible to support and connect these efforts. One quick way to stay informed is to join our Transparency Blogger list-serve if thinking and writing about Transparency is up your alley.
– With House member expenditures being made open and online (an important first step in disclosure), lobbying parties heating up for the summer months (baseball tickets are all the rage apparently), and with quarterly earmark disclosures coming soon, there’s going to be a lot more from our Real Time Investigations team and Party Time blogs. These are some of the crucial places online where reporters and citizen journalists come to get the scoop underneath government stories, so if you have a lead or get party invitations, please send them along
– Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be launching several new insanely useful web platforms that we’re eager to work with you on. Keep an eye out for the redesign of OpenCongress.org and the launch of a nationwide initiative we’re calling Transparency Corps!