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Health Care Reform and OpenCongress

April 2, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

We built OpenCongress because the government source for congressional information was frustratingly unfriendly, and because we saw the potential for using emerging web tools to make congressional information as open, engaging and helpful as it ought to be. Since we launched more than 3 years ago, we've seen some big issues come and go -- immigration reform, the Iraq war, the financial bailout -- but nothing got people looking for factual information on what Congress was up to as much as health care reform. This past year has been a huge test of where we're at with improving access to Congress.

In the spirit of transparency, here's an overview of how OpenCongress was used during the health care debate.

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Health Care Reform and OpenCongress

March 26, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

We built OpenCongress because the government source for congressional information was incredibly unfriendly, and because we saw the potential for using emerging web tools to make congressional information as open, engaging and friendly as it ought to be. Since we launched more than 3 years ago, we've seen some big issues come and go -- immigration, Iraq, the financial bailout -- but nothing got people looking for factual information on what Congress was up to as much as health care reform. The past year has been a huge test of where we're at with improving access to Congress.

In the spirit of transparency, here's an overview of how OpenCongress was used during the health care debate.

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GOP Takes Out Their HCR Frustration on Open Gov

March 23, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

We already know that the Republicans have vowed to be as uncooperative as possible during consideration of the budget reconciliation bill to amend the health care bill. This afternoon, while Sunlight Foundation's Ellen Miller was testifying at a Senate subcommittee hearing on "removing the shroud of secrecy: making government more transparent and accountable," Sen. Thomas Carper [D, DE] interrupted to say that the Republicans had put a hold on the hearing. Click through for the video, the testimony, and news coverage ::

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Put Public Information Online

March 17, 2010 - by Eric Naing

Many people are familiar with the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, which forces government agencies to disclose certain types of undisclosed information. But what about the government data lying around that's technically public but not easily available? This is where our colleagues at the Sunlight Foundation come in.

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160,000 Hours of C-SPAN

March 15, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

This is a dream come true!:

Researchers, political satirists and partisan mudslingers, take note: C-Span has uploaded virtually every minute of its video archives to the Internet.

The archives, at C-SpanVideo.org, cover 23 years of history and five presidential administrations and are sure to provide new fodder for pundits and politicians alike. The network will formally announce the completion of the C-Span Video Library on Wednesday.

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Why Transparency Beats the Earmarking Ban

March 11, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

In his State of the Union address, President Obama made a strong call for Congress to make earmarking more transparent. Instead, the House of Representatives has put in place new rules that bans most earmarking altogether. The new rules have lobbyists scrambling to figure out a work-around to make sure that their clients still get a piece of the money Congress appropriates, the New York Times reports:

Jolted by a sudden tightening of the rules, lobbyists and military contractors who have long relied on lucrative earmarks from Congress were scrambling Thursday to find new ways to keep the federal money flowing. […]

Some firms talked of partnering with hospitals, universities and other nonprofit organizations in seeking federal money, an idea that Congressional officials said might not be allowed under the new rules. Others said they planned to become more aggressive about applying directly to the Pentagon and other federal departments and agencies, and not Congress, for grant money.

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Treasury Dept. Opposes Fed Transparency

March 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

You would think the White House would get behind a proposal that is sponsored by a full 3/4ths of the House of Representatives, but they're not.

Ryan Grim of Huffington Post reported today from a briefing with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and a couple Treasury officials that they are "intensely opposed" to the Ron Paul-Alan Grayson bill to require a full audit of the Federal Reserve. The bill has  already passed the House as a part of the broader financial reform package (H.R.4173) and it is immensely popular with the public as well as Members of Congress -- the stand-alone version of it has 317 co-sponsors in the House and 33 sponsors in the Senate. According to sponsorship statistics, it's the most popular bill in Congress right now.

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Highlighting Deficit Spending

March 9, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Every politician loves an easy way to show their support for "transparency" and "fiscal responsibility." The Hill

In a rare 100-0 roll call vote, the Senate adopted an amendment offered by Sen. Tom Coburn [R, OK] that would create a running tally on the secretary of the Senate's website of any new mandatory spending that isn’t paid for through offsetting spending cuts or tax increases.

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Fewer, But Costlier Earmarks in 2010

February 17, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Taxpayers for Common Sense has completed their analysis of congressional earmarking for fiscal year 2010 and found that, while Congress approved almost 2,000 fewer earmarks this year, the total cost of all earmarks actually increased by $300 million this year. Click through to see who won the most earmarks in the Senate and the House.

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Join us on Facebook

February 10, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

If you're not a fan of OpenCongress yet on Facebook, please become one today. It's the best and easiest way to stay on top of what's happening in Congress.

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Political engagement is fundamental for fighting corruption, dysfunction and apathy in our government. That's why we're striving to make the best primary source information on Congress for political bloggers and journalists to use. Here's 5 ways you can start using OpenCongress on your blog right now to build public knowledge and engagement with Congress.

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25 Bills Rushed in 2009

January 12, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

In 2009, Congress rushed a total of 25 bills to the floor without posting them online at least 72 hours beforehand for public review. That includes a lot of major pieces of legislation, like the stimulus bill, cash for clunkers, and a bill to make the estate tax permanent.

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C-SPAN Asks to Televise Health Care Negotiations

January 5, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

President Obama has repeatedly promised to televise health care negotiations on C-SPAN so that the public can watch along. Now, C-CPAN's CEO, Brian Lamb, is asking Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to help Obama keep his promise.

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The 10 Most Blogged Bills of 2009

December 29, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

Congressional leaders may have decided which bills to bring in front of the C-SPAN cameras over the past year, but they didn't control what the public paid attention to and what bills got them talking. Nearly 10,000 bills have been introduced in Congress over the past year. In many cases the ones that have really caught the public's attention are different from the ones that were sanctioned and promoted by the congressional leadership.

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Obama Admin. Issues Open Gov Directive

December 8, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The White House today issued an 11-page Open Government Directive (.pdf) that directs federal agencies and departments on how to make government more transparent, participatory and collaborative.

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