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In January of 2007, freshman Democratic congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand became the first member of the House of Representatives to post... View ArticleContinue reading
True democratic government depends on citizens being able to monitor and participate in the actions and activities of their government. ... View ArticleContinue reading
Delegation leads in openness
By IR staff - 12/13/07Naively, no doubt, we were hoping that the Montana congressional delegation’s practice of posting their daily schedules on the Internet might catch on in Washington.
After all, it’s an easy way for members of Congress to show their commitment to transparency in government and maybe even help repair that institution’s tattered image.
No such luck. A national watchdog organization called the Sunlight Foundation recently applauded U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and Sen. Max Baucus and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg for being among only eight of the 535 members of Congress to post their schedules.
A foundation spokeswoman said congressional members often say they don’t want to reveal their schedules for reasons of security. That’s a particularly lame excuse. All they need to do is post their scheduled a day late, as the Montana delegation does. Yesterday’s schedule isn’t of much help to any bad guys lurking out there. The real reason so few are willing to make their schedules public is that they probably fear political operatives will be poring over their itineraries, searching for any ammo they can find for future attacks. Continue reading
Today we were alerted to the very impressive schedule from Montana Senator Max Baucus. Now for the first time Montana citizens know who all of their members of Congress are meeting with. I have to say Sen. Baucus has done the right thing by his constituents.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.
With the advent of Rep. Rehberg (MT) posting his schedule to his official congressional Web site, Montana bloggers and newspapers have asked if Sen. Baucus would join his fellow lawmakers and post his schedule, as well. Lawmakers who agree to share their schedule show that they’re responsive, open, transparent and above all accountable to their constituents. When citizens can find out who has the ears of their lawmakers they can fairly determine if those lawmakers are making fair decisions. The information is vital to a strong democracy because it allows, for the first time, a voter to engage in the daily life of their elected official. The Montana Standard agrees -- on Sunday they printed an editorial making the point thatWith just three people representing the fourth largest state in the country, our congressional delegation already faces a great challenge in trying to stay in touch with Montanans, and this one relatively easy way to keep people in the loop.Given the distance between Washington DC and Montana it could be frustrating to a Montanan to feel connected to their representative. But, with a schedule, people know that members of Congress are, in fact, meeting with people in the district and keeping those needs in mind daily. Bloggers are also asking, Don Pogreba’s blog Intelligent DiscontentIt's time for Senator Max Baucus to do the right thing. Following the lead of Senator Tester and Representative Rehberg, it's time for Max to start telling Montana voters how he spends his days in Washington.and Jay Steven’s Left in the West "So you know what this means! Max Baucus is the only Montana federal-level representative hiding his business behind a cloud."
The value of a daily available schedule is not lost and constituents actually see the value and want to see all their Representatives do the right thing. We have seen the power that Montana Bloggers have in demanding accountability from their elected officials, and I am confident that Sen. Baucus will do the right thing by his constituents. There’s hope he’s already considering it. Today, the Billings Gazette published an editorial citing, Sen. Baucus’ spokesperson, Barrett Kaiser stating “…said last week that the senator is considering posting his schedule.”Continue reading
Rep. Dennis Rehberg is the 7th Member of Congress (and the second from Montana) to put a daily schedule online. Montana freshman, Sen. Jon Tester, made a campaign promise to post his schedule and he has been posting it since the beginning of his term. The existence of Tester’s schedule prompted the Helena Independent Record to ask Rep. Rehberg and Sen. Baucus if they were thinking of posting one also. Rehberg’s spokesman said his schedule was available to anyone who called his office and asked but when bloggers decided to take him up on that offer they found out that his schedule was available only if you were in Washington (more responses here). Later, an article in the Missoula Independent quoted Rep. Rehberg’s chief of staff saying that when the website was redesigned Mr. Rehberg’s schedule will be posted daily.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
UPDATE: Our intelligence tells us that the committee will vote off the floor around noon today. Rules and Administration Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) just announced that Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) will drop his amendment allowing the electronic filing bill to move forwards. Feinstein agreed to hold a hearing on a stand alone bill of Bennett's amendment. And now Bennett cosponsors the bill, S. 223. Amazing! However, not enough Democrats showed up for there to be a quorum so the meeting was adjourned without a vote on the bill. The committee will likely vote off the floor once they get enough votes. It's ironic that a disclosure bill will be voted on behind closed doors. The bill should still move forwards.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