Last week, we launched the web site – Pass223.com – to get support in the Senate for S. 223, a... View ArticleContinue reading
In addition to the usual pork for fitness centers and chapels, the bills contained something unusual: Two earmarks worth $240 million for the Missile Defense Agency's European adventure.
I'm sure there's plenty of other stuff worth digging into. For more info from Taxpayers on earmarks, see here.Continue reading
Tomorrow morning, the Senate Constitution Subcommittee of the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Secret Law and the Threat to Democratic and Accountable Government. In Chairman Feingold's words:
Senator Feingold is talking about memos put out by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), a part of the Department of Justice. The executive branch needs guidance on how the law affects its actions, and the OLC exists to provide legal interpretations for rest of the executive branch. These opinions strongly determine the nature of executive branch activities, and therefore have an undeniable bearing on the public interest. (more)
We've expended enormous energy and blog space to advocate for the Senate to file their campaign finance reports electronically, something that probably shouldn't take that much effort, but it does. If you need a primer on the issue you can watch this video we made. One thing of note in this whole saga is that Congress, in 1999, mandated electronic filing for all campaign committees, but somehow the Senate doesn't have to comply. Why is this?
In December of 1995, Congress passed a bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act to allow the FEC to accept electronic filing, a legislative recommendation previously made by the FEC to give them a statutory requirement and funding to create an e-filing system. The bill, which became Public Law 104-79, also changed the filing location for members of the House from the Clerk of the House to the FEC. This seems innocuous, but it is important.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'm about to head to a hearing from the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, which, as we learned yesterday amidst a flurry of activity on the Open House Project Google Group, will be viewable, both live and archived, from the Senate committee's website.
This is exciting also because of the content of the hearing, where we'll be hearing from a panel of e-government and technology experts, including CDT's Ari Schwartz, Jimmy Wales of Wikia, JL Needham of Google, and Karen Evans of the Office of Management and Budget.
We expect the hearing to deal with both executive branch e-government implementation, and to also touch on some degree of legislative branch transparency issues, as a committee staffer stopped by yesterday to explain. We'll likely be hearing more about CRS reports, and an initiative regarding THOMAS upgrades, both priorities from the Open House Project report.Continue reading
The House and Senate have agreed on a version of S. 2590, the Coburn-Obama database bill. The press release indicates that the publicly available database that the legislation will create will include both federal contracts and grants (an earlier House bill, Blunt-Davis, would have disclosed grants but not contracts). The bill still has to pass the House, but it looks like it's moving forward. Here's the release:
WASHINGTON---House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (Okla.), Barack Obama (Ill.), and Tom Carper (Del.), and Government Reform Chairman Tom Davis (Va.) today announced that they have reached agreement on legislation to increase accountability and transparency by establishing a public database to track federal grants and contracts. Continue reading