Today’s news from Capitol Hill includes the never ending Jack Abramoff investigation, congressional staff still running for K Street, and... View ArticleContinue reading
The Hill highlights a problem that we've seen far too often with personal financial disclosures. Lawmakers do not always follow the rules in properly filling out these important disclosure forms. More often than not, the public is not privy to the lack of disclosure because oversight is spotty at best. Sometimes it takes an unfortunate story to point out what is lacking from a financial disclosure form:
Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Calif.) could face fines for leaving a heavily indebted mortgage off her financial disclosure statement, according to campaign finance experts.Continue reading
NewsTrust.net - an online social news rating site - is focusing in on Congress this week and is looking for users, new and current, to contribute stories that exemplify quality reporting on Congress. Over at the NewsTrust blog they've singled out some of the stories submitted so far, including a number of articles and blog posts on the Senate fight over telecom immunity in the FISA reauthorization bill. They are hosting this Congress feature through Sunday, so get over there and review some articles. Feel free to submit blog posts or articles, I just submitted this great Alaska Daily News article about Sen. Ted Stevens' use of the earmarking process to help enrich a former staffer and fisheries industry lobbyist.
(NewsTrust is a Sunlight grantee.)Continue reading
"We can never understand [a House member’s] Washington activity without also understating his perception of his various constituencies and the home style he uses to cultivate their support " states Richard Fenno in Home Style: House Members in Their Districts. Fenno understands that the work of members of Congress is more than committee meetings and votes but is also people they meet with from the district. The work in the district builds trust constituents need to send them to Washington and to accept the decisions they make there. Fenno’s makes the point that the work of lawmakers done in the district is not an exhibition but the yang to Washington’s Ying.
This trust that lawmakers create in the district extends to who they meet with in Washington. The Punch Clock motto has always been “Members of Congress work for us, and we should know what they do every day.” Fenno made this point a different way, “Trust is, however, a fragile relationship. It is not an overnight or one-time thing. It is hard to win; and it must be constantly renewed and rewon. "
In this spirit, Sunlight has decided to help out by creating a trust-building tool. This tool, the Punch Clock Map, is a Google map mashup with corresponding RSS feeds that lets citizens see for themselves just how elected officials spend their time and how they serve their district’s needs.
I know this is a cynical take, but if Congress won’t provide accessible databases of information, maybe we should move in this direction.
Cartoon from the Politico.Continue reading
Every week I climb into the depths of the local political blogosphere to find the Sunlight. I use this series to highlight local blogs that do a great job of convering local, state, and Congressional political news. This week I have highlights from Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Nebraska, and South Dakota.
Wondering who's getting all the earmarks? Who's giving them and why? Do earmarks meet pressing needs or pay off political favors? And which are pure pork? EarmarkWatch.org, an innovative new tool from the Sunlight Foundation and Taxpyers for Common Sense, lets you find out for yourself. Using EarmarkWatch.org, you can exercise citizen oversight of Congress. Dig into the 47 earmarks worth $166,500,000 that Rep. John Murtha inserted (and figure out which benefit campaign contributors). Or take a close look at the $100,000 earmark that Sen. David Vitter secured for an organization that promotes creationism in Louisiana schools. Or the $37 million in earmarks that include defense giant Northrop Grumman as a beneficiary. Right now, you can investigate earmarks from the House Defense Appropriations Bill and the House and Senate versions of the Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bills. Using a host of online resources, you can find out whether recipients of earmarks hired lobbyists, made campaign contributions to members of Congress, or won federal contracts and grants. You can also add information to eamarks others have researched, or comment on what others have found. EarmarkWatch.org provides you with powerful tools to scrutinize and evaluate thousands of earmarks. To get started, create an account and pick an earmark.Continue reading
This could not have happened without the dedication of the Montana blogging community; especially Don Pogreba from Intelligent Discontent and Jay Stevens and Matt Singer from Left in the West. Montana bloggers understand that openness and transparency are worth fighting for as practices that are important for elected officials to embrace.
Montana is currently the only state whose entire congressional delegation posts a daily schedule. Constituents can now track the meetings of both Senators and their representative to make sure that they are working hard for Montana.
Congratulations, this is a great day for Montana - and for transparency.
It looks like C-SPAN is now publishing a new index of its House and Senate floor proceedings -- The C-SPAN Congressional Chronicle. According to them the video recordings are matched with the text of the Congressional Record as soon as the Record is available. It only includes members who appeared on the floor to deliver or insert their remarks. The text included is what the member submitted. Each appearance has a video link where users can watch and listen to the actual statements. This is great progress!
We asked our grantee, Metavid, to check it out and tell us how far C-SPAN's new index advances the transparency of what happens on the floor and they reported back that this is a big step, providing a slew of additional timed "metadata" (bill data, index to congressional record) that they can use to enrich their archive. The C-SPAN site is using the Congressional Record with archivists manually syncing up the record with the daily proceeding at per speaker granularity. The closed caption based search which Metavid uses allows people to zero in on matching sections of video quicker but the official record is generally more accurate. Using both should greatly enhance the Metavid search functionality and may help illuminate the revision and extension of remarks that lawmakers are always taking about.Continue reading