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See Who Congressmen Are Meeting With

December 12, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

Heading into last year’s elections, the Sunlight Foundation began a campaign to get incumbents and congressional challengers of all parties to pledge to post their daily schedules on the Internet if they are elected. It’s called the Punch Clock Campaign, the idea being that members of Congress should be held accountable for their time on the job just like everyone else. As tax-payers and voters, we (citizens) are our senators’ and representative’s bosses, and the Punch Clock Campaign seeks to make members of Congress’s daily schedules available so that when election time comes, we will have the information we need to decide to keep them on board, or look for someone else who may work for us more effectively.

Well, eight Members of Congress have taken the punch clock pledge and have been posting their daily schedules on their web sites since January. The Sunlight Foundation has just released a super useful Google map mashup, complete with RSS feeds, that lets you see who those eight members of Congress have been meeting with, where the groups they have been meeting with are from, and, generally, who they have been talking to when they are not meeting with committees or voting full sessions of the House or Senate.

Here’s Nisha Thompson’s explanation of what data is made available with the Punch Clock Map:

>To let citizens monitor how their elected officials address their district’s needs, the maps mark the home-base location of the organization or individual who met with the lawmaker, not where the meeting occurred. If the lawmaker’s schedule provides a location, organization or individual (who can be easily identified), those meetings are plotted on the map. (The map does not include internal business meetings, committee hearings, meetings with constituents without easily identifiable addresses or location and meetings with other current members of Congress.)

There’s is a lot of interesting information to be drawn from the maps. For example, you can see which cities in a senator’s state are making stronger connections than others and how often they meet with groups or individuals from out of state. It’s also interesting just to know what kinds of organizations are meeting with these eight members of Congress. Sunlight’s research staff have been analyzing and googling the information made available in the schedules to give us links to the organizations so we can easily see for ourselves what they are.

I’m jealous of everyone who lives in the districts represented by the senators and representatives included in the map. It’s about time we demand this information from every senator and representative. Don’t you think?

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