My colleague, Larry Makinson, moaned and groaned a couple days ago that the personal financial disclosure records for members of Congress were not available in electronic form. Well, Sunlight noticed that too and that's why one of the first grants we made was to the Center for Responsive Politics to create a searchable online database out of those paper records.
CRP has collected, scanned and posted PDF images of Personal Financial Disclosure reports for members of Congress since 1995. In case you don't know these reports show which members are the wealthiest, which own certain stocks, which members maintain (or have recently paid off) large debts, etc. In short, there's some really important information in those forms that might tell us how lawmakers vote, the earmarks they propose, and why. With paper records, analyzing this data is so...last century. Meaningful and timely analysis is practically impossible. (This is no accident...)
We've had numerous requests -- both by phone and online -- over the past several days about how to apply for grants from the Sunlight Foundation so I wanted to take a couple of minutes today to talk about that.
First you should know that we know that there is a large community of people and organizations who are already doing amazing things when it comes to making information about Congress available and accessible. We want to encourage them to go further by digitizing more information to make it searchable more easily and to present it in a truly public-friendly fashion. Our primary example of this is a grant we have already made (to the Center for Responsive Politics) to take the Personal Financial Disclosure Forms now filed on paper (!) by elected officials and make a searchable database out of them. Another example is a grant to OMB Watch to create a searchable database out of government grants and contracts.Continue reading