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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.

For those of you who care about these issues — and I assume if you are reading this that you do — now is the time to spread the word. March 16-22 marks the fourth annual Sunshine Week, and the movement is growing. With the potential of new technologies for citizens to engage with government and each other, and the message of “change” weighing heavily in the upcoming elections, the energy is building. Now we need to push it over the top.

Besides the activity in the media, there will be a series of Sunshine Week event happening in Washington, D.C. On Wednesday, OpenCongress’ David Moore will be speaking as part of a panel entitled, “Citizen Self-Help: Finding the Information You Need.” The panel will also include Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics/, Sean Moulton from, and Daniel X. O’Neil of EveryBlock; Greg Elin of Sunlight Labs will moderate. You can get a webcast of the event by registering here.

On Thursday, I.P.-expert-gone-corruption-fighter Lawrence Lessig will launch his “”“>Change Congress” movement. Lessig, you may recall, recently switched his area of academic research from intellectual property (he is the founder of Creative Commons), to combating the influence of money in politics. He’ll be marking the “Change Congress” launch with a lecture (webcast here) on “the ways in which our democracy is threatened by corruption and ways we, as citizens, can respond.” That’s happening on Thursday, March 20th at 1:30 at ET. There are many more official Sunshine Week events going on in Washington — you can see the schedule here.

All week on the OpenCongress blog we’ll be highlighting bills that have been proposed to open up access to government information and combat corruption in Congress. Congress is out of session for Easter recess, but hopefully we can put on the pressure for them to pass some important transparency legislation in the upcoming final quarter of the current session.

We’ll also be pointing out cool Sunshine Week activities happening both online and off. To get you started, here’s what’s already been printed about Sunshine Week in newspapers across the country, and here’s what’s being said in the blogs. And now is a good time to review this: eight principles for governments to adopt to become more effective, transparent, and relevant to our lives.

Finally, I want to encourage you to keep using “”">My OpenCongress," our new set of tools for building community and critical mass around the bills in Congress that people care about. It’s also a perfect time to reach out to your friends and family about getting more involved in the issues they matter to them. With “My OpenCongress” you can import contacts from G-Mail, Yahoo! or Hotmail and easily send out an invitation to a big group. If you don’t have an account yet, you can register quickly and for free. With a “My OpeCongress” account, you can build a personal profile on OpenCongress of the bills and people you’re tracking, network with other users, comment and vote on bills, and much more.

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