It’s not easy being non-partisan


I’m often told that being non-partisan is an ambiguous position.

Here at Sunlight, I don’t think anyone can accuse of us as being ambiguous. We dole out the punches as often as we take them. We could side up with one ideological team and only expose ourselves to attack from either the left or the right.

We don’t and we won’t – we’re willing to expose ourselves to attack from all ideological corners because we believe that transparency is one of the few issues the entire political spectrum can agree on and fight for. There are already plenty of clear partisan choices for Americans to make on everything from the economy to the environment. Transparency doesn’t have to be – and shouldn’t be – one of them.

Individuals staffers at Sunlight have their own personal political beliefs, but a serious analysis of our work shows us going after the issues that matter to open government – regardless of the party and sect opposing us. But being non-partisan doesn’t just mean attacking both sides equally – it’s also about listening equally. Thankfully, that was made logistically easier on us this year (and in previous years) when both Netroots Nation and RightOnline – respectively two of the largest gatherings of online progressives and conservatives – scheduled their yearly conferences in Las Vegas at the same time. Two notes from my time there stand out – my friends on the left wanted better tools to show the influence on money in government. My friends on the right wanted better tools to show the spending of government. It’s a false choice of course – we need both.

First we created Poligraft – a one click tool to show the hidden influence connections in a news article (or any piece of text for that matter). Wondering why your senator’s position sounds so similar to Interest Group X? With one click, you can see how much cash they’ve thrown your representative’s way.

While Sunlight doesn’t take a position on how we should spend our tax dollars, we can be as frustrated as anyone when there’s so much bad data in the government’s checkbook. Knowing what’s already in our collective checkbook is absolutely critical to crafting sound economic policy. It’s time for Clearspending – a forthcoming project from Sunlight that will help make sense of the federal checkbook. We’re releasing it this fall, so sign up for our email list or Twitter feed so you’re notified as soon as it drops.

These are just two projects out of many on which we think citizens of all political stripes can unify. What open government issues in your communities are ripe for non-partisan action?