Here are a few of the more interesting media mentions of Sunlight and our friends and grantees from this week:... View ArticleContinue reading
Back when Kirsten Gillibrand was elected to the House of Representatives in 2006, she promised to post her daily schedule... View ArticleContinue reading
Today, New York Governor David Paterson appointed Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat. Gillibrand has, from day... View ArticleContinue reading
In January of 2007, freshman Democratic congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand became the first member of the House of Representatives to post... View ArticleContinue 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.
The House of Representatives voted on a bill to improve the way Inspectors General perform their work monitoring spending in executive branch agencies. Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand thought the bill might be improved by adding a provision on transparency. Sunlight helped her find an amendment—already part of a bill Senator McCaskill has introduced—that would require that each agency provide a link on its homepage to its IG’s homepage. The amendment also requires that IG reports are posted in a searchable, sortable, downloadable format and be available online no more than one day after the reports are made public. Another piece of the amendment provides that the IG’s website have a method by which the public can report waste, fraud or abuse in an agency.
This amendment shines light on the important work of Inspectors General and it has the potential to save taxpayer money by allowing the taxpayers themselves to report when they think an agency is engaged in wasteful or improper spending. By offering this common sense amendment, Rep. Gillibrand, who already posts her schedule, her personal financial disclosures, and her earmark requests online, can put another notch in her transparency belt. The amendment passed by voice vote, which means that her colleagues also recognized how important and non-controversial greater transparency is. Hopefully more Members of Congress will follow Ms. Gillibrand’s lead when it comes to making their own work more transparent. Ms. Gillibrand and a handful of other Members know that greater transparency builds trust with their constituents, fosters accountability, and simply improves the way our democratic institutions work.Continue reading
Do two representatives make a trend? Today, Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) posted her personal financial disclosure form on her member Web site. (See it here.) This makes her the second known member of Congress to post their financial disclosure form to their Web site. Last month, Bill blogged about Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) being the first known member to post these documents to their site. As I've explained before, citizens can only get personal financial disclosure forms, the documents that tell you how much your congressman is worth and what assets they own, directly from Congress by travelling to Washington, DC and picking up the hard copies from the Legislative Resource Center (located in the basement of Cannon Office Building). Gillibrand and Issa are doing a much needed service by being personally responsible for the public disclosure of these vital documents.Continue reading
Since the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet’s John Neurohr is able to read our minds I figure that I ought to give a demonstration of what we have been doing with the daily schedules that some members of Congress are posting. Currently most members of Congress, the press, and partisan outfits see the daily schedules as a target for cherry-picking “gotchas” like the recent fuss about Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand’s schedule showing a fundraiser for the congresswoman in Europe. Look at the schedule as a whole and not a series of single events and you get a different picture. Instead of one event that may be unseemly you will be able to tell a story that explains whether or not, in the meetings that the congressperson is holding, the member is fulfilling their representational duty to work with individuals and groups in the district. That’s why we decided to see what a Google map of the schedule might look like.Continue reading
The Members of Congress that post their schedules online are models of what transparency in Congress should look like. In a system where politicians are careful, to the point of paranoia, about what information is spread about them, the elected officials who are brave enough to post their meetings, to make sure their constituents get as much information as possible, should be seen as pioneers.
In today’s NYT this article about Rep. Gillibrand stated:
Shortly after taking office, Ms. Gillibrand directed her staff to publish the details of her meetings, no matter how sensitive, on her Congressional Web site, calling the listing the Sunlight Report. But Republicans see these reports as a potential trove of damaging information. Examining them, they discovered, for instance, that Ms. Gillibrand, while vacationing with her family in Europe recently, held several fund-raisers for her re-election campaign, including two in London and one in Paris. … (The Gillibrand camp insisted that attendees were required to show American passports before being permitted into the events and that no money was donated by foreign citizens.)Continue reading
As an energetic promoter of lawmakers posting their daily schedules on line, we've talked about the terrific efforts made by Sen. John Tester and Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, the first two lawmakers to really give us some sense of who they meet with and what they do everyday. But today we realized that the schedules were not actually being archived on their sites, meaning that if you wanted to see how many citizen groups Rep. Gillibrand has met with over the long term, or how much time Sen. Tester spends working on legislation with his staff, you couldn't figure it out. No doubt this is an oversight on their part.Continue reading