114th Congress: We're updating with new data as it becomes available.

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The big-money usurption of American democracy has taken another step forward. By a vote of 51-44, the Senate last night voted along party lines to uphold a filibuster the 2012 DISCLOSE Act, a bill that would require corporations, unions and Super PAC that run political ads to release the names of their donors who give more than $10,000 to support a campaign. Just ten years after President Bush signed into law the “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act” (McCain-Feingold), putting limits on independent campaign spending and requiring disclosure in ads, simple disclosure of unlimited campaign spending has become a bitter, highly-politicized issue.

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Help OpenCongress - With Just One Click

June 29, 2012 - by David Moore

The team behind OpenCongress - an open-source, not-for-profit project - has submitted a proposal to the Knight NewsChallenge. 

Help us out - click on the heart on this page to vote for our project :: 

What Matters Here - surfacing political issues from Twitter conversations in your city

You'll need to login or create a free Tumblr account, but it seriously only takes a minute, and helps us significantly. Thank you. Click through for more info on @WhatMattersHere.

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SCOTUS health care reform ruling imminent

June 28, 2012 - by David Moore

In advance of the un-publicly-accountable U.S. Supreme Court ruling on health care reform (#hcr on micropublishing), some handy links ::

H.R. 3590 (111th Congress) - the major "Patient Protection & Affordable Care" bill - official textmoney trail of interests supporting & opposing, roll call votes, House vote on passage (concurring w/ Senate).  

I enthusiastically recommend you stream WNYC's the Brian Lehrer Show during the 10am ruling. (Listen now link is buried on the right-hand side for some reason.) Will be informed & reality-based & clutch. More background links after the jump.

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When Congress passed the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in 2010 they made quite a few dubious claims about what was in it, a couple of the most offensive being that the bill would end too big to fail and that it would bring transparency to the Federal Reserve. We’re still waiting for real action on ending too big to fail, but on real Fed transparency legislation there is some action. Tomorrow, the House Oversight Committee will vote on the Federal Reserve Act. The bill would eliminate the special audit protections that the Fed conducts its monetary policy under and mandate that the Comptroller General conducts a complete Fed audit within one year’s time.

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The team behind OpenCongress submitted a proposal to the Knight NewsChallenge. Help us out -- vote for our idea here: 

What Matters Here - surfacing political issues from Twitter conversations in your city

In short, it's a new Web tool for finding urgent local political issues being discussed on Twitter and connecting people to lawmakers. Click through for more info on our proposal and please give us a "heart", it's easy and significantly helpful. (Image linked from some site called UpRoxx, by Column Five Media & InboxQ.)

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"Early June" is over and the Senate never did vote on cybersecurity legislation as they were expected to. But that doesn't mean their bill, and the internet privacy obliterating provisions in it, are dead. According to new reports, the supporters of the leading cybersecurity bill in the Senate are putting on a full-court press to hold a vote as soon as possible.

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This past Monday & Tuesday in NYC was Personal Democracy Forum Conference, the best in the game - great assemblage of tech-policy thinkers. My eighth year in a row, eight of nine overall, wouldn't miss it. Please find below videos of a couple of my favorite presentations (click through). 

Help PPF with a charitable donation, and we'll build more free Web tools for activism like Yochai describes - libre, open-source, non-partisan, and not-for-profit. We can faciliate more distributed, stop-SOPA style activism around a broader range of bills & legislative issues. 

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Next Steps in #FreeTHOMAS Campaign

June 7, 2012 - by David Moore

Hypothetical- you care about an issue: catastrophic climate degradation, net neutrality, extreme income inequality, single-payer health care, student loan forgiveness. Let's say the U.S. Congress has public information about this issue that is of core relevance, but refuses to open the primary source data to the public in full. For well over five years, technical & public-interest advocates outside government have worked in good-faith efforts to educate Congress that the data can straightforwardly be released & safeguarded - indeed, the data is already being screen-scraped several times a day & provided to free public Web resources (as best as possible). An Act of Congress calls explicitly for the information to be released. Several previous task forces failed to have real-world effects and clouded the issue unnecessarily, with no accountability or communication or recourse for open data advocates. 

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Update June 6th 7pm ET: hmm, some encouraging words from House GOP Leadership, summarized expertly by our ally Daniel Schuman: Major Transparency Milestone in Bulk Access Statement. We'll be watchdogging the process... a bit more inside. is the public-facing website for federal legislative information - bills, actions, votes, etc. The many closed databases that populate THOMAS are, for practical purposes, the primary source of laws from the U.S. Congress. These laws shape the experience of our contemporary lives & political landscape.

Attendees of the Legislative Data & Transparency Conference from Feb. 2012, I invite you to publicly stand behind the House Approps Subcommittee statements & those of Rep. Crenshaw (R, FL-04) as Chair. Edited June 6th 9am ET:  new names this morning: Dr. Billington, on behalf of LoC; Davita Vance-Cooks, on behalf of GPO; invite you to take a stand on behalf of your insitutions.

... click through for more links & justified impatience. Let's have a public discourse about #FreeTHOMAS. It's been over ten years for Josh at GovTrack; five years since OC launched; three years since the bulk data task force; etc. Come on.

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Stopping Congress from screwing up the Internet, again.

Earlier this year, people from all over the Internet rallied to stop SOPA and PIPA, the Internet censorship bills. That was great, but now members of Congress (and the telecom and media companies) are once again trying to destroy the Internet. With SOPA, they tried to give the government wide-ranging authority to shut down huge portions of the Internet. This time they're going to destroy the your privacy. But not if we can help it.

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PPF is proud to stand with our allies the Sunlight, and many others in the #opengov & legal informatics community in calling for #opengovdata - specifically, to oppose H.R. 5882 (sponsor: Rep. Ander Crenshaw [R , FL-04]) in its current form as it's planned to be brought to the House floor this week.

We called our long-planned wiki-whip-count effort on OC: #FreeTHOMAS. Now, we have the specific legislative item from the House Subcommittee on Legislative Appropriations: click here to email your reps in opposition to H.R. 5882. Click through for more info & outrage. Totally unacceptable that we still don't have bulk access to public bill data. 

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Help OpenCongress Fundraise (Not-For-Profit)

May 31, 2012 - by David Moore

The U.S. Congress is a baffling, systemically-corrupt, closed-off institution. OpenCongress works every day to make its workings more accessible and give you the real story behind what's happening. 

Help us keep OpenCongress alive as a free & open-source public resource.

OpenCongress will launch a new fundraising drive next month and we need some volunteer web development time to make it happen. Click through to see how you can help. 


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Last week there was a brief flurry on the micropublishing service re: possibility of a version control system (VCS) for laws. Background links via the incredible research of Rob Richards - this post by Abe Volcker on "GitLaw" made a splash on Hacker News. Here's an unedited-draft, non-exhaustive, quick-fast sketch of a response from my point of view.

First, though, please read this enlightening Quora thread in full: "What are the nontechnical barriers to adopting a version control system for use in writing bills / new laws?" My apologies to have a pre-requisite, but it's crucial background & full of expert insight. 

Click through for my take on public accountability through an open VCS for laws. (I'm bullish!) 


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Congress Refuses to #FreeTHOMAS (updated)

May 17, 2012 - by David Moore

Update, May 30th, 2012, 5pm ET: Ohh hell no. They're blocking you, you reading this now, from accessing #opendata about bills in Congress. This afternoon, Daniel Schuman & Eric Mill with our partners Sunlight Foundation posted this seriously unfortunate, significantly discouraging, sadly expected update: "Appropriators May Undercut Legislative Transparency". 

Background on OC Blog: our campaign is to #FreeTHOMAS now. See our #FreeTHOMAS community wiki whip count page for more info & links. 

Primary point of contact here should be office of Rep. Ander Crenshaw [R, FL-04], on behalf of the intentionally, insistently closed-off Legislative Branch Subcommittee. Give them a ring and let them know that even if you're not a constituent, you demand bulk access to public legislative information - Rep. Crenshaw's office phone is 202-225-2501. Click through for more updates. 

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This video presentation, by Prof. Yochai Benkler of Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society, is one of the best articulations I've ever seen of the meaning of "participatory politics".

Please watch it in full & share it: Blueprint for Democratic Participation.

Help us facilitate more stop-SOPA-style civic engagement on OpenCongress - around the economy, education, health care, the environment, immigration, technology, or any issue imaginable - support our not-for-profit work. Click through for more of my thoughts on the importance of the stop-SOPA / PIPA movement for netfreedom, as well as why this research is so important for our core non-profit mission of promoting participatory democracy through free Web tools.

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