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Attention Bloggers: What are You Doing for Sunshine Week?

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I'd like to collect a list of blogshine activities. Email to me at zteachout at sunlightfoundation.com. If you're NOT doing anything, Sunshine Week starts March 11--it was started in 2002 as a series of "Sunshine Sundays" by Florida Editors who were opposed to rollbacks in Florida's sunshine laws. Those Sunshine Sundays stopped about 300 provisions from going forward. Newspapers around the country will be running pro-transparency editorials starting on Sunday, and when the blogosphere and the MSM have real synergy, magic can happen. To learn more about Sunshine Week generally, see the Sunshine Week homepage.

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DC Residents: What Are You Doing Next Tuesday at Two?

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March 13 at 2-3 PM in the Zenger Room of the National Press Club, we are holding a panel discussion on "Sunshine in the First Branch: How Transparent is Congress?" Our goal is to celebrate Sunshine Week--a three-year old week where the press corps pushes government to be more transparent--and to make sure that Congressional transparency stays in the spotlight, along with Executive Branch transparency. But we also want to explore creative suggestions for opening up Congress -- the panel is a mix of investigative journalists whose life work is investigating congress and activists, each bringing their own ideas about what could-and ought-be more transparent in Congress.

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Enter our Sunshine Week Mashup Contest!

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Next week (March 11-17) is Sunshine Week, during which journalists, activists, and bloggers raise awareness about the importance of open government and advocate for more transparency. To celebrate, we are hosting a contest! We will give a $2,000 prize for the best "Web 2.0 Mashup" (wikipedia) that displays information about Congress: Our judges--Esther Dyson, Jimmy Wales, and Craig Newmark--will select the winning mashup based on creativity and how effectively it displays Congressional information.

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Sunlight Accepting Applications for Mini-grants for 2007

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The Sunlight Foundation is offering grants of $1,000 to $5,000 for local groups that have creative ideas for changing the relationship between elected Federal representatives and the people they represent. This is the second year of our mini-grant program. Last year we funded five extraordinary programs (see below) selected from nearly one hundred applicants. Successful applicants will receive the grant, consulting and strategic support, and networking opportunities. Our goal is to provide that extra element that takes a project from good to great -- server space, a video camera, or access to polling data -- or provide the seed that makes a new project viable. Projects could range from citizen media, to creative use of the internet to engage citizens in watchdogging, to opening up new ways of communicating with federal lawmakers to creative mapping of lawmakers' activities.

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Open the Government and Sunshine Week

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This week, Sunlight joined Open the Government, a coalition of over 50 groups who are committed to citizen access to governmental information. Open the Government coalition partners include groups like OMB Watch and associations of reporters. We are also starting to plan our own contribution to Sunshine Week, a week in Mid-March dedicated to making Government transparent, and we'd welcome any ideas. We are currently thinking about a panel on congressional transparency and some cool online display of secrecy and openness, but we are, as always, curious to hear your input.

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Rumors of a Deal to Save the Ethics Bill

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Although it seems that the ethics bill is dead and this afternoon's cloture vote this afternoon is all about message, one contact just informed us that the Democrats and Republicans are actually close to a deal. The vote is scheduled to take place between 3 and 6. If they do come to an agreement, the bill should be finished tomorrow. If it does go through, we are still hoping -- though it is a long shot -- that the managers will accept a combination of language that requires the Senate to come up with a way to get personal financial disclosure reports online. We hear that Senator Cardin will be working to get this in a manager's amendment.

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Transparency Agenda Update

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There is a lot happening in the Senate today. By the end of the day, we will likely know where our efforts to get contemporaneous online filing of Senate reports stands. We have a new, part time lobbyist, Lisa Rosenberg, to push our short term agenda. In the context of the reform bill currently in the Senate, this means she is working to ensure that the following provisions are included:

  • All earmarks are online prior to a vote with the names of the sponsors of the earmarks;
  • All travel documents are online in a searchable and sortable format;and,
  • Personal financial disclosure forms are online immediately after being filed.

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Will Reid/DeMint Compromise Include Online Accessibility to Earmarks?

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With all the drama in the Senate over earmark disclosure, one major question remains -- what will the Reid/DeMint compromise have to say about keeping the earmarks reports online? A major flaw in Pelosi's Rule requiring all earmarks to be identified by sponsor and purpose is that this information is not required to be online. Only staffers and a few overworked local DC reporters can even plausibly review the earmarks. While Reid's proffer was profoundly flawed in its failure to cover the majority of earmarks, it did, at least, require that earmarks and the identifying information be online prior to a vote.

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What Senator Tester Did Today: This is What Real Openness Looks Like

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Freshman Senator Jon Tester of Montana has committed to sharing his schedule, and even though his website isn't up yet, he is already sharing it in a public place in his office. Here it is -- exactly the kind of information the public wants to know. This is what real openness looks like:


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January 10th 7 AM Gym

8:15-9 AM Constituents Breakfasts with Senator Baucus's Office

9:45-11:45 Hearing: Energy Committee

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Open Lobbying Report #4

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If you email someone in Congress, and they don't write you back, does it still count as a contact? In an abundance of caution (and hope that my notes will be requited), here is my open lobbying report for the shortest day of the year: Contacted: Ron Weich, Senior Policy Expert, Reid's Office When: December 21 Where: Email About Bills: S Res 21, hoping for a revival of it About topics: Online filing of Congressional Reports Relations: I am not an ex-staffer, neice, mother, sister, or other relation to Ron Weich, or any other Member of Congress. However, Ellen saw him at a meeting Monday, and he sent me an encouraging one line email the day before yesterday. (Is it a contact when they contact you? I suppose so.)

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