“Buy it, use it, break it, fix it, Trash it, change it, melt - upgrade it.” If only fixing and changing the technological infrastructure of Congress would be as simple as Daft Punk would have us believe. At the beginning of the month Republicans were up in arms over a seemingly nefarious move by Democrats to gavel out a vote on an amendment to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, a move reminiscent of the 2003 Medicare vote and 1989 incident where Speaker Jim Wright held the vote open for more than the required time. It seems, however, (a special House committee is looking into this) that the error made was possibly the fault of an outdated, outmoded electronic voting system employed on the floor of the House.
Where can I find information on the contracts awarded to Northrop Grumman Corporation? Once I’ve found that information, where can I find the campaign finance and lobbying information for Northrop Grumman Corporation? Have members of Congress have accepted private travel from Northrop Grumman Corporation or a related association? Is there a profile of those members of Congress? Can I edit that profile with what I might find? Did that member say anything about Northrop Grumman Corporation in the Congressional Record? Are they mentioned in a committee report? Did they benefit from an earmark?
Web sites presenting different kinds of political, civic, and legislative information are distributed throughout the internet. While broad Web searches can be effective, they can also be time consuming and lead to sites of questionable reliability. With the debut of Sunlight’s Insanely Useful Web sites page (always listed in the tabs at the top of every Sunlight page) we're developing a collection of value-added government information databases on the Web.Continue reading
As David All and I have written, the rules governing member Web sites are not fit for the 21st Century Web. If the rules were enforced with any regularity, instead of used as a scarecrow to keep members from innovating, then some of the best practices by members on the Web wouldn't be happening. Case in point: Rep. George Miller (D-CA).
Today, George Miller announced a new campaign, called "Ask George," calling on citizens to send videos, through video sharing sites like YouTube, to Miller's office regarding the War in Iraq. Miller's office describes "Ask George" as a "distributed, virtual town hall". Miller also suggests that participants in this conversation "tag" their videos "askgeorge" so that his office can go and find the questions. This way, Miller is the one going out to seek the conversation rather than the citizen or constituent who is usually the one seeking out the congressman.Continue reading
The Hill newspaper ran an Op-Ed written by David All and myself on Tuesday in the Open House Project Op-Ed series. We run down the reasons why member Web sites are often just polished brochures, accessories to the actual functions of the office. First and foremost is the rule regime governing member Web content. These rules date from the early to mid-nineties and do not reflect the current nature of the Internet in the 21st Century. David and I advocate for these rules to be changed and for the Committee on House Administration to create a bipartisan panel to solve the problem. I've been blogging about member Web sites over at the Open House Project blog this week. So far, I've covered Ben Nelson's Google Map of his Iraq CODEL, Jack Kingston's dynamic member site, and the attitude on Capitol Hill in regards to member Web sites. Below the fold I've included the Op-Ed that David and I wrote.Continue reading
I’d be remiss to fail to mention Liza Sabater’s pre-PDF Conference blog post, “The Cluetrain Manifesto for People Powered Politics.” In her post Sabater aims to do for politics what the Cluetrain Manifesto did for the business community. Writing, “Gone are the days in which engagement is only mediated by an elite ‘entrusted’ by the masses with every single policy and political decision making that will end up affecting their lives,” Sabater highlights a point that I find to be instrumental in understanding the changes that an Internet-enabled open and transparent government will enable. While Sabater focuses on the realm of elections, I’d like to take a look at her “Manifesto” in terms of governance. “Constituencies are conversations,” and they can be empowered to affect the legislative and governing process as well as direct the political process.Continue reading
Citizens and journalists are taking to new mediums to report on Congress. These new mediums, however, are not recognized by the U.S. Senate Press Gallery. Today, ConsumerAffairs.com reports that it's Congressional reporter, Joe Enoch, an award-winning investigative journalist, was ejected from the Press Gallery after he was denied renewal of expired credentials because he wrote for an online venture. According to the Senate Press Gallery, ConsumerAffairs.com is not a "legitimate journalistic enterprise." This is a shining example of what Rob Bluey pointed to in his Hill op-ed and in his Open House Project recommendations to create a credentialing to bloggers and citizen journalists. The right to report is not limited to those employed by elite media institutions. ConsumerAffairs.com founder and editor in chief James R. Hood puts it best when he says, "The Constitution of the United States guarantees freedom of the press to everyone; it does not establish a legitimacy litmus test."Continue reading
This morning the Heritage Foundation hosted a terrific panel of the primary conveners of the Sunlight sponsored Open House Project - John Wonderlich, Rob Bluey, Matt Stoller and David All. And while the conversation touched on some of the specific recommendations of the work, it was mostly a very articulate and thoughtful musing by the four 20-something leaders of the effort about how they marshaled the online collaborative effort across a sharp political divide on bringing the House into the 21st century. The genuine bipartisanship was hated by one right-wing blogger, but was defended by two of the conveners -- Rob Bluey and David All. Can't wait to hear what Stoller has to say.Continue reading
Update: If you can't attend watch the screencast here.
We are opening the House and changing Congress. This Thursday (May 10) at 10 a.m. the Heritage Foundation is hosting a panel discussion on The Open House Project recommendations. The panel speakers include Sunlight Program Director John Wonderlich, David All of the David All Group, Director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation Robert Bluey, and MyDD's Matt Stoller. The event will no doubt feature some of the most interesting conversation regarding making the House open, accesible, and fit for the 21st century that you will find in Washington, D.C. If you have an interest in the future of politics and the future of Congress you should attend this event. Plus, when else are you going to see Matt Stoller at the Heritage Foundation? You can RSVP here.Continue reading
We just returned from a terrific press conference on the Hill where we released the results of the Open House Project. Rep. John Boehner (R. OH) and Rep. Brad Miller (D. NC) joined some of the collaborators of this project as we talked about our recommendations for bringing the House into this century and the collaborative, online way the project was conducted. We very much appreciated Boehner's and Miller's support as we did that of House Speaker Pelosi who sent a letter welcoming the report. C-SPAN covered the press conference and as soon as we know when it will be aired, we'll update this post.Continue reading
The Hill newspaper began a series of Op-Eds today from authors of the Open House Project, a Sunlight sponsored endeavor to make the House of Representatives more open to citizens online and in general. Today’s piece comes from the Heritage Foundation’s Rob Bluey advocating for citizen journalist access to the press gallery in the Capitol. With the expansion of online citizen-generated media over the past few years it sometimes overlooked by those who consume this media how the obstacles created by old media that impedes citizens from observing and reporting on their own government.Continue reading