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Tag Archive: Committee Oversight

The Legislation Will Not Be Televised

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This map distinguishes five levels of legislative web and broadcasting comprehension on a sliding scale from “Best” (including all recommended elements: video formatting of floor proceedings and committee hearings, archived, and broadcasted via a variety of mediums) to “Worst” (missing several of these recommended elements). For more info (or to watch!) see the NCSL's original roundup here.

Open legislative data is integral to a functioning legible participatory democracy. The legislative data canopy covers everything from information about who represents you to the nuts and bolts of the legislative process to final letter of the law, with each element carrying its own series of challenges and considerations when it comes to public access. Timely and archived legislative process data (i.e. bills, amendments, committee meetings, votes, and contextual information, such as: research reports, legislative journals and lobbying information) are crucial to supporting citizen participation and informed voting. Video documentation of the legislative process represents the barebones of open and accountable legislative process data -- passive recordings of events as they happen for prosperity and public inclusion -- and yet this information is still not comprehensively available in most U.S. states.

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Downloadable table of all earmark requests

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Sunlight has compiled a list of House earmark requests--available here--for fiscal year 2010 which were disclosed this year for the first time under new rules, but scattered across hundreds of Web sites and in nearly unusable formats.

Sunshine.gop.gov, a new House Republican site, houses a machine-readable version of the database, but the site does not allow viewers to obtain all earmarks at a glance, instead forcing them to search for terms or browse a few at a time and making analysis impossible.

By writing a computer program to automatically access the site thousands of times, the ...

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Get Offline Tonight

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Instead of spending another Friday night surfing the Web for your news, here's some television you should watch tonight. Bill Moyers Journal will give you the best arguments you'll ever need to explain why it's so important for our government to do its work in the open. They have prepared an extensive report on government waste and abuse of power.

Specifically Moyers is going to look at some of the unsolved mysteries under investigation by Congress's Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman. The program profiles the Committee's work, including its investigations of the mercenary army of Blackwater; Lurita Doan, who remains head of the GSA despite allegations of questionable no-bid contracts; and Condoleezza Rice's State Department, which is plagued by fraud and abuse. Waxman's Committee's Web site is a treasure trove of information and documents on these issues. (In fact, Sunlight regards it as a model site itself when it comes to revealing the details of the work of a committee of Congress.)

And we're pleased that their Web page will highlight many of Sunlight's insanely useful Web sites for people are seeking more information.

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Online Committee Transparency: Senate Edition

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Since determining the online transparency of the committees in the House I figured it would be worthwhile to compile a similar list for the Senate. The Senate committees turned out to be very similar to their counterparts on the House side. Around one-third of the Senate committees provided no access to printed transcripts or audio/video for each committee meeting and only one committee was fully transparent in its access to committee meetings.

Senate Rules (XXVI) require that committee meetings be open to the public and that committees should keep a verbatim account of these meetings:

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The End of Work as We Know It

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Today the Washington Post reports that incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer plans on making the 110th Congress, y’know, actually work. The 109th Congress, if it finishes up business this week, will have spent the fewest days in session -- the House of Representatives only -- of any other Congress in at least the past 60 years. Now some congressmen are complaining that they might have to -- gasp -- work a five day week.

Congressman Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) apparently is an advocate of a 3-day work week. This is his comment in the Post article, “Keeping us up here eats away at families. Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says.” This comment ought to be a nominee for the silliest and most embarrassing comment by a professional politician in the past year. (Another comment in this category should be “Dollar Bill” Jefferson’s declaration that he will one day offer an honest excuse for keeping $90,000 in cash in his freezer.)

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Lost Years in the Committees

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A group of bloggers at Daily Kos has started an impressive project involving citizen oversight in the coming Congress. The project, called Committee Transparency, aims to get at least one person to cover the goings-on of each and every committee in Congress and to make recommendations to make committees more transparent. This past weekend blogger greenreflex wrote one of the better blog posts on committee transparency explaining the Rules that govern public access to committee hearings and documents and the continuing lack of transparency in many committees despite public access rules.

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