Follow Us

Tag Archive: Open States API

OpenGov Voices: Chasing the 8-hour app

by

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Tom MeagherFoundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.

Tom Meagher is the co-founder of Hack Jersey and the data editor at Digital First Media's Project Thunderdome in New York City. Follow Hack Jersey at @hackjersey or www.hackjersey.com. Reach Tom at @ultracasual.

A few weeks ago, Hack Jersey brought a group of journalists and developers together to wrestle with campaign finance data. We thought it would be a good opportunity for many to get their hands dirty and to start thinking about new ways of reporting and building with the data.

In one room of our event at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, a group of journalists went on a data expedition, learning how to explore reports from the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission. In another, we gathered developers to try to build a campaign finance app for New Jersey using the Sunlight Foundation's APIs in a single work session.

Continue reading
Share This:

OpenGov Voices: How VT Diggers is tackling state campaign finance

by

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the headshotAnneguest blog.

Anne Galloway is the founder of VTDigger.org -- a statewide news website in Vermont that publishes watchdog reports on state government, politics, consumer affairs, business and public policy. She has worked as a reporter and editor in Vermont for 17 years covering the Vermont Legislature, the governor and state government. Anne can be reached at agalloway@vtdigger.org.

In 2010, I began reporting on campaign contributions in Vermont. That year, we had an open seat in the governor’s office and there were five candidates in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. I was shocked to discover that the only information available from the Vermont Secretary of State’s office came in the form of unsearchable PDF scans of spreadsheet forms. The secretary requires that candidates use a form available in Excel on the state website. Candidates fill out the form and submit it in paper format to the secretary. It is then scanned and posted on the website.

In spite of the fact that there was no easy way to search the information, I began scouring the web for information about people, advocacy groups and businesses. I soon discovered that many businesses, political action committees and unions had direct financial connections to the candidates. I wrote a series of investigative stories about contributions from out of state, from businesses and wealthy individuals to candidates of the two major parties in statewide races.

shumlin913edt
Peter Shumlin, governor of Vermont

We revealed that paving and signage companies donated thousands of dollars to a candidate for lieutenant governor who had served as chair of Senate Transportation and who owned a road construction and engineering firm. We also tracked a donor who contributed four times to Peter Shumlin, using four different LLCs. The Associated Press picked up our story about David Blittersdorf’s contributions and the more than $4 million in state tax subsidies that he garnered for his company’s solar projects.

As a result of these stories, news organizations and others pressured the secretary of state to develop a searchable campaign finance database in 2011. Though the secretary has said he is willing to take on the project, he has been unable to obtain funding. This fall, the secretary put out an RFP for the project, which would be completed in 2015 (at the earliest).

Continue reading
Share This:

OpenGov Voices: Creating an Early Warning System for Political Activism

by

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.Adam Green

Adam Green is the CTO of UniteBlue.com -- a social network for progressives based on Twitter. UniteBlue connects and organizes political activists on a national and state level. You can reach. Adam at adam@uniteblue.com.

One of the great challenges for political activism in each of the 50 state legislatures is providing timely information on bills as they move through the legislative process. The data provided by the Sunlight Foundation Open States API is comprehensive, but combing through it to find the limited number of bills that activists have the time to focus on can be overwhelming. I have found over 88,000 bills in the current session alone. We are now developing an early warning system at UniteBlue.com that can assist our volunteers in filtering this information flow down to a manageable level.

While the entire process will take months to complete, in this guest post I’d like to propose a triage model that can be used as a first step. Triage is the medical model used in hospital emergency rooms and during disaster responses. A high flow of patients is screened using certain “signatures” to determine which ones need to be seen first, such as blocked airways or dangerous vital signs. The process of triaging the high flow of bills coming from the Sunlight data will follow a similar model.

Continue reading
Share This:

CFC (Combined Federal Campaign) Today 59063

Charity Navigator