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The folks at the Sunlight Foundation have begun developing a model government transparency bill, and in the spirit of the proposal, they're calling on the public to help them finish it through a collaborative and open process. The public release of their bill, which they have titled the Transparency In Government Act of 2008, coincides with the launch of PublicMarkup.org -- a new platform designed to facilitate collaborative bill writing.

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Better, More Transparent Contracting

March 28, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The Government Contractor Accountability Act proposes the creation of a public database that lists the names and salaries of the most highly compensated officers of government contractors that receive more than 80 percent of their annual gross revenue from Federal contracts. If such a database existed, what The Times unearthed, that this huge contract was given to "a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur," would have been easy to figure out with accessible public information.

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Thank You!

March 27, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

This morning NetSquared announced the 21 mashups for social change that have been selected for this year's NetSquared Conference (N2Y3), and we are super excited to have be one of them. Thank you to everyone who voted for us!

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Congressional Patent Reform and the IT Industry

March 26, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

"A series of appeals court rulings in the 1990s greatly expanded patentable subject matter, making patents on software, business methods, and other abstract concepts unambiguously legal for the first time. The result has been a flood of patents of broad scope and dubious quality. With one very minor exception, none of the proposals being debated on the Hill would address these changes."

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Citizen-driven Metajournalism on Congress

March 25, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

By aggregating data from all over the internet and ranking every bill in Congress by "most viewed," "most covered in the blogs" and "most covered in the news," OpenCongress produces new data about the public's interest in bills. If you compare these categories on the OpenCongress home page, chances are that you'll find the most interesting and contentious bills sticking out like sore thumbs.

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Last week, the Bush administration put out an analysis of the economic and environmental effects of the leading climate change bill in Congress, the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. The report, prepared by the EPA is a mixed bag -- no matter where you stand on the issue, there's some good and some bad to be taken from it. But, since it's an official and comprehensive report -- it's the first time the administration has attached economic numbers to the bill, and probably the only time it will before the Senate votes on it in June -- people on every side are trying to make the findings work for them.

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Change Congress

March 21, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

On Thursday, Lessig officially launched his "Change Congress" movement, which calls on congressional candidates to announce their support for any combination of four fundamental planks of reform: a promise not to take money from lobbyists or PACs, a vote to permanently ban earmarks in the congressional appropriations process, support for the public financing of campaigns and a commitment to making Congress more transparent.

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Vote for OpenCongress Today

March 21, 2008 - by David Moore

The U.S. Congress produces thousands of bills every year -- so it’s difficult to figure out which are significant, and which aren’t so much. OpenCongress.org has a new proposal to make it easier than ever to track your interests in Congress. We've submitted it to the NetSquared competition, in which the top projects receive up to $100,000 in prize money. Please support OpenCongress by voting today. Click "more" to read a quick how-to...

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A New Bill to Curb Congressional Secrecy

March 19, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

According to a recent poll, 74 percent of American adults view the government as secretive, up from 62 percent in 2006. A new bill in the Senate could help fix that reputation by ensuring that when Congress decides to keep government information secret, the public knows why.

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When to Expect Your Stimulus Check

March 18, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Now you can easily find out exactly how much your rebate check will be for and when you will to get it. The IRS has just created the Economic Stimulus Payment Calculator -- all you need to find out the amount of your rebate is your 2007 federal form 1040, federal form 1040EZ, or federal form 1040A, and your social security number.

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Let the Sun Shine In

March 17, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

It's begun! As of Sunday, it's officially Sunshine Week -- the time of year when bloggers, journalists, activists, advocacy groups, libraries, lawmakers and citizens come together to remind the world that information is most valuable when it's free and governments are most effective when they are open. Look out for columns on media rights in your newspapers, posts on equal access to information in the blogs, new web tools for watchdogging from online activists, and a national discussion about openness and transparency from all the people around you who care about the state of our democracy.

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Unlike the FISA bill that is favored by the Senate, the House's bill, the RESTORE Act, does not give retroactive legal immunity to the telecommunications companies that helped President Bush listen to phone calls and read emails of U.S. residents without a warrant. Instead, the bill would allow a secure federal district court to review classified evidence and hear arguments from the companies in order to determine whether or not they violated the law.

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FISA Moving Forward

March 13, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

The House is going to vote later today on their updated FISA bill, which does not contain telecom immunity. Despite near-unanimous opposition from House Republicans and the President, it is probably going to pass. But a group of conservative, Blue-Dog Democrats, big enough to swing the vote, still haven't said where they stand. McJoan at Daily Kos put together this list -- call them if you feel strongly one way or another (they control the vote): >* Rep. Leonard L. Boswell, D-Iowa -- P...

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To Earmark, or Not to Earmark

March 12, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Tomorrow, every senator will go down or record for or against Jim DeMint's (R-SC) amendment to ban all earmarks from the fiscal year 2009 budget. Earmarks are pieces of the budget that have been requested by a specific legislator for a specific purpose, usually a politically-popular project in their district. As the number of earmarks exploded in the last several years, they have become a symbol of government waste and corruption.

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Big Immigration Vote Shaping Up

March 11, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Immigration, the most toxic issue of the 110th Congress, is once again in the limelight. House Republicans are going to try to force a vote on a bipartisan, Democrat-written enforcement bill, the Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement Act of 2007, as a way to highlight fissures related to the issue in the Democratic base.

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