Sunlight's Suggestions for Committee Website Content

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Contents

Introduction

The Sunlight Foundation has put together a transparency checklist for Congressional Committee websites. Of course, not all items listed below are appropriate for all committees, and there may be additional items appropriate to a particular Committee. However, this list  broadly addresses questions of what should be available on a particular website.

The Sunlight Foundation's Open House Project generated a report containing suggestions for Congressional Committees, including what kinds of content should be available on their websites. This blogpost contains more information, including links to proposed RSS standards.

For a general discussion of user interface and website design, see the Congressional Management Foundation's annual "Golden Mouse" reports, which analyze all Congressional websites and contain many useful suggestions for design and content. Follow these links for lessons learned from their 2007 report and 2009-2010 report.

The following is the Congressional Committee transparency checklist, which is organized by topic.

General Website Information

Does the front page of the committee’s website contain (or prominently link to):

  • A schedule of committee meetings/hearing
  • A list of committee members
  • Press information
  • Video or audio of proceedings
  • A search box (with advanced search capabilities, such as sort by date, document file type, topic, etc.)
  • The locations of committee and subcommittee offices, including phone numbers or email addresses

Does the committee’s website contain (or links to):

  • A description the committee’s jurisdiction
  • Information about subcommittees
  • Committee publications (prints, reports, etc.)
  • Contact information for the relevant majority or minority staffers
  • The minority website

Does the committee contain (or link to) the following new media information:

  • A blog about the committee’s activities
  • A Facebook account
  • A Twitter account
  • Podcasts (e.g., iTunes)
  • Photographs (e.g. Flickr)
  • A list of all RSS feeds/email sign-up


Committee Hearings

Do all hearing pages include:

  • The date and time the hearing takes place
  • The location the hearing takes place
  • The topics/ subject matter of the hearing (what it is about)

Do pages covering hearings that have concluded include:

  • A list of witnesses
  • The written testimony of the witnesses
  • Documents submitted to the committee
  • A transcript of the hearing
  • Video or audio from the hearing (streaming and archived)

Do pages concerning mark-ups include:

  • The legislation that was referred to the committee (or a link to the legislation)
  • Discussion or working drafts of legislation
  • The chairman’s mark (the measure recommended by the committee chairman for mark-up)
  • Amendments submitted for consideration (and their sponsor)
  • A brief summary of the amendments submitted for consideration
  • Votes on amendments
  • The final committee report, or a link to where it can be found


For witness disclosures, committees should ingest the disclosures as structured data, even through a spreadsheet with defined rows, and a google form, to allow for easier searching and analysis of witness disclosures.

Subcommittee pages

Do pages for subcommittees include:

  • A plain English description the jurisdiction of the subcommittee
  • A list of the matters before the subcommittee
  • A list of subcommittee members
  • Contact information for the relevant majority and minority staffers
  • Links to relevant hearings
  • The same general kinds of information that are available for the full committee

Membership Information

Does the website provide the following information regarding committee membership:

  • Include a list of all committee members
  • Indicate the seniority of each committee member (they are often listed in order of seniority)
  • Separately indicate the members of the different subcommittees
  • Link to each committee member’s official web page

Publications

Does the website include the following committee publications:

  • Current committee reports, oversight reports, and other documents, or a link to where they can be found – reports from earlier Congresses are particularly helpful as well
  • The committee’s rules
  • Any related CRS/ GAO/IG or other reports or memoranda
  • A committee oversight plan (House only) or nominations information (Senate only)
  • When possible, are documents available in non-PDF format as well, such as XML?

Media/Press

Does the media/press page contain:

  • Press advisories/ releases
  • Fact sheets
  • Contact information for the majority and minority staff press persons
  • An RSS feed

Historical Information

Does the committee provide the following historical information:

  • A history of the committee
  • Major historical documents produced by the committee
  • Ethics information, such as recusal forms for committee members who cannot participate because they have a conflict of interest
  • A list of earmarks requests (when appropriate)
  • Memoranda of understanding (MOUs) reached with other committees regarding jurisdiction

Whistleblower

  • Does the committee provide information on a secure way for whistleblowers to contact the committee?
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