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Sunlight Shines On OpenCongress.Org

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The Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation bring together legislation, news, and the teeming blogosphere on their new website.

They call OpenCongress “a free, open-source, non-profit, and non-partisan web resource” for following what happens in Congress. Enhancing that information will be content collected from several sources:

  • Official Congressional information from Thomas, made available by GovTrack.us: bills, votes, committee reports, and more.
  • News articles about bills and Members of Congress from Google News.
  • Blog posts about bills and Members of Congress from Google Blog Search and Technorati.
  • Campaign contribution information for every Member of Congress from the website of the non-profit, non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, OpenSecrets.org.
  • Congress Gossip Blog: a blog written by the site editors of OpenCongress that highlights useful news and blog reporting from around the web. The blog also solicits tips, either anonymous or attributed, from political insiders, citizen journalists, and the public in order to build public knowledge about Congress.

Visitors to the site can focus on tracking bills of particular interest as they make their way through the legislative process. OpenCongress organizes those bills by common issue areas, just as they are designated by the Congressional Research Service.

People can follow bills, issues, or members of the House or Senate as topics that can be subscribed to as RSS feeds. OpenCongress also offers a feed of the bills before Congress that have been the most covered by news sites or blogs.

A box on the home page of the site shows the latest roll call votes that have taken place in either chamber of Congress. Details for each question show the roll call information, including who voted and how they voted.

OpenCongress has plans to expand the site’s functionality now that the launch has taken place. Future improvements they discussed include user logins, collaborative analysis of legislation, and bill tagging. They are actively soliciting feedback about the site, including bug reports and other suggestions programmers may have about OpenCongress.


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