INSANELY USEFUL WEB SITES
HAT TIP to the SUNLIGHT FOUNDATION for their sources.
Congresspedia.org – a project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Media & Democracy – is an online wiki-based citizens’ encyclopedia on Congress hosted on the Center for Media & Democracy’s SourceWatch wiki. This resource includes individual pages for every member of Congress, as well as information on congressional committees, specific legislative topic areas, congressional rules and practices and individual bills. As a wiki, its content can be drafted and edited by anyone. (Congresspedia is a Sunlight grantee.)
Contractor Misconduct Database – The government awards contracts to companies with histories of misconduct such as contract fraud and environmental, ethics, and labor violations. In the absence of a centralized federal database listing instances of misconduct, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is providing such data about the top 50 contractors.
DOJ Documents search engine
The DOJ Documents search engine – a project created by users of Daily Kos – provides a search function for the massive number of e-mails released by the Department of Justice to the House Committee on the Judiciary in response to the recent firings of U.S. Attorneys. The e-mails, previously only available in a large PDF file, are presented in text format and are searchable by name. The user can also designate whether they want to see e-mails that are “From,” “To,” or “CC.”
EarmarkWatch.org – a project of the Sunlight Foundation and Taxpayers for Common Sense – is a user-friendly, online investigative tool that lets citizens determine if earmarks – the measures inserted by members of Congress into the various appropriations bills that direct funds to a specific project or recipient – address pressing needs, favor political contributors or are simply pure pork. The site guides users through a series of steps that an investigative reporter would follow, associating different kinds of political information with each earmark, and also guides them on how to use online resources on campaign finance, lobbying and federal spending for their research, including OpenSecrets.org and FedSpending.org. Users can also comment on and fact-check one another’s work, or send messages – including tips and suggestions – to others.
Fedspending.org – a project of OMB Watch – combines data from the Federal Procurement Data System and the Federal Assistance Award Data System to create a free, searchable database of federal government contracting and spending. The database allows users to search contracts and grants by state, congressional district, contracting agency or type of award, and shows where the money is being spent and whether it was competitively bid. (Fedspending.org is a Sunlight grantee.)
Follow The Money
The National Institute on Money in State Politics operates a searchable database of all campaign contributions to political campaigns at the state level. The database allows users to search for contributions to candidates for office at all levels of state government and for contributions spent on supporting and opposing ballot initiatives across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Institute has made available several APIs so programmers can access and display the Institute’s data in their own applications. (The National Institute on Money in State Politics is a Sunlight grantee.)
GovTrack.us centralizes information on the legislative process into a Web site Users can search through member of Congress profiles, bills, votes, and committee action. Users can also create their own Congress-tracker by subscribing to email updates or by creating RSS feeds to keep informed on the latest developments related to bills, issues, members of Congress and committees.
Legistorm provides two unique sets of congressional information. Their congressional staffer salary information can be searched or browsed, giving a revealing view into the working of member, committee, leadership, and administrative offices. Legistorm also presents congressional travel data, offering a robust search feature and rankings among members, staff, sponsors, and destination.
LOUIS – The Library of Unified Information Sources – a project of the Sunlight Foundation – is a search engine that combs through seven different sets of government documents. The seven sets of documents are Congressional Reports, the Congressional Record, Congressional Hearings, the Federal Register, Presidential Documents, GAO Reports, and Congressional Bills & Resolutions. The search engine allows users to search broadly for keywords or limit searches to a single document set or range of dates. LOUIS, which updates its document depository daily, even allows users to set up a “standing query” as an RSS feed, to get alerts every time Congress or the executive branch takes action that references the subject of the initial query. (LOUIS is a project of the Sunlight Foundation.)
MAPLight.org provides a detailed analysis of legislation by tracking bills, the support and opposition bills garner from interest groups and the campaign contributions given by those interest groups to members of Congress and for the state of California. The site lets users tracks the day by day, vote by vote, impact of political contributions at the federal level. This analysis is based on databases available from the Center for Responsive Politics at www.opensecrets.org and from official records of the Library of Congress via GovTrack.us. The resulting database of bills, voting records, and campaign contributions powers the search engine at MAPLight.org and enables people to see the links between dollars spent and votes cast in Congress. The site allows users to search by bill, interest group or by legislators, and also allows similar searches of the California legislature and state Senate. (MAPLight.org is a Sunlight grantee.)
Metavid is a project that captures, streams, archives and facilitates real-time collective remediation of federal legislative proceedings. Metavid opens up video source footage of House and Senate proceedings for permanent reusable online access, allowing citizens to remix, investigate, and track their representatives in a participant-driven open source archive. (Metavid is a Sunlight grantee.)
OpenCongress.org – a joint project of the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation – is an open-source, non-partisan, legislative Web resource that uses structured data scraped from THOMAS by GovTrack.us to show legislative information – bills, committees, member profiles – in a more useable format. OpenCongress.org offers RSS feeds as an easy and convenient way to follow the latest news and blog mentions relating to a bill, a vote or a member of Congress. The site serves as a rich resource for political bloggers, issue-based membership groups, and individuals.
FOIA Document Review
Open Community Document Review System – a project of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) – provides an online review process that enables people across the Internet to review, tag, comment on and rate the importance of government documents received by CREW through Freedom of Information Act requests. (This project of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is a Sunlight grantee.)
Open CRS – a project of the Center for Democracy & Technology – aggregates Congressional Research Service reports that have been released to the public by members of Congress in a searchable database for free public access. Since CRS reports are not typically available to the public, Open CRS encourages users to submit any acquired CRS reports for inclusion in its public database. (Open CRS is a Sunlight grantee.)
Open Hearings is a mini-site of schedules of current and future Senate committee hearings which includes links to live audio and video of hearings in progress. Users can subscribe to receive updates for all committees and hearings via RSS feed or iCalendar. The site also provides users the ability to import the “Live Hearing” view into a personalized Google homepage.
OpenSecrets.org – a project of the Center for Responsive Politics – is the premiere source of data on money in national politics. OpenSecrets.org provides a searchable database for the campaign finance data of all federally elected politicians since 1989. The site contains individual campaign finance profiles of each member of Congress and each presidential candidate. The site relies on data compiled by the Federal Election Commission. The user is able to search by member of Congress, by donor, or by industry sector. The site also contains four separate databases: lobbying, personal financial disclosures, congressional travel and revolving door. (The Center for Responsive Politics is a Sunlight grantee.)
OS: Lobbying Database
The Open Secrets Lobbying Database – a project of the Center for Responsive Politics – collects information from lobbyist disclosure forms and provides it the user in a number of searchable ways dating back to 1998. Among many options the user can search by client name, lobbyist name, bill ID number, lobbying firms, and issue area. The site allows the user to search through lobbying firms, top lobbying contracts, individual lobbyists, and the top lobbying industries. (The Center for Responsive Politics is a Sunlight grantee.)
OS: Personal Financial Disclosure
The Open Secrets Personal Financial Disclosure Database – a project of the Center for Responsive Politics – has information from the personal financial disclosures filed by every member of Congress and every executive branch official since 2005 and presents it all in a searchable format. The user can search through member’s net worth, stock holdings, assets, and outside income. (The Center for Responsive Politics is a Sunlight grantee.)
OS: Revolving Door
The Open Secrets Revolving Door Database – a project of the Center for Responsive Politics – aggregates all information related to those leaving work on Capitol Hill to go to work on K Street and vice versa. The Center for Responsive Politics’ Revolving Door database tracks anyone whose résumé includes positions of influence in both the private and public sectors since 1998. Users can search for members of Congress and congressional staffers turned lobbyists by looking at the congressional offices and committees with the most people spinning through the revolving door. Top agencies, members, congressional committees, and organizations are all available search options. (The Center for Responsive Politics is a Sunlight grantee.)
OS: Travel Database
The Open Secrets Travel Database – a project of the Center for Responsive Politics – a search engine of aggregated privately sponsored congressional travel information compiled from reports filed by members of Congress with the House Legislative Resource Center and Senate Office of Public Records since 2005. Users can search by member, staff, sponsor, country, city and industry to see who is funding their travel. The site also provides maps showing where each individual member of Congress and their staff have traveled. (The Center for Responsive Politics is a Sunlight grantee.)
Project Vote Smart
Project Vote Smart provides detailed information – biographical information, campaign finances, interest groups ratings, issue positions, and public statements – on elected officials including the President, members of Congress, state officials and leadership in state legislatures.
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Taxpayers for Common Sense provides reports on pork barrel projects and earmarks in Congress analyzing bills in real-time and providing databases of information. Its mission is to reduce wasteful government spending. (Taxpayers for Common Sense is a Sunlight grantee.)
WashingtonWatch determines the average cost, or savings, per individual of each bill introduced in Congress by performing calculations on government estimates compared to the US population. The Web site provides users with pro and con arguments for each bill, allows comments on each bill, allows users to vote “yes” or “no” on the bills and provides a “write your rep” function. WashingtonWatch also provides a wiki that allows users to add content to each bill. (WashingtonWatch is a Sunlight grantee.)
INSANELY IN DEPTH
GovTrack.us Josh Tauberer, Govtrack’s creator and proprietor, has gone far beyond building a simple tool to help track congressional proceedings; Josh’s creation has become a fundamental fixture in terms of both government information and structured data… [more]
GovernmentDocs.org was created to advance the values of open and accountable government. This site gives the public an unprecedented level of access to government documents by allowing users to browse, search, and review hundreds of thousands of pages acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other public disclosure, or “sunshine,” laws.
Realtime Investigations: Follow along as Bill and Anu detail their investigative reporting adventures.
LOUIS is the beginning of a comprehensive, completely indexed and cross-referenced depository of federal documents.
The OpenHouse Project: Working to identify areas where Congress can open up and improve access to relevant and timely information.
What’s McConnell Hiding?
Help us reveal which anonymous senator blocked a bill to create more transparency in the Senate.
OpenCongress: Bringing together official government information with news and blog coverage to give you the real story behind what’s happening in Congress.
Congressional Web Site Investigation:Employing citizen oversight to find out if we are getting our money’s worth from congressional Web sites.