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Open Senate Project Launches

(cross-posted from the Open Senate Project blog)

Sunlight has just sent out the following press release, announcing the launch of the Open Senate Project.

As Ellen blogged this morning, we’re delighted to have Majority Leader Reid’s endorsement of the effort, so we can apply the same public discussion and analysis to Senate reform priorities as we’ve applied to the House.

We have created a separate blog site to track discussion and developments, and to collect resources, but we’ll be using the same google group for Senate discussion, since duplicating the collection of people following this list would be impossible, and much of the discussion here already applies to both chambers (and often the executive).

I’m also happy to announce that Jon Henke and Josh Tauberer have agreed to help coordinate the discussion and preparation of the recommendations report; the effort will certainly benefit from the expertise they can offer.

Finally, I’d like to offer my gratitude to everyone for contributing and following along as we work our way through Congress’s public face — this project’s strength comes from the (sometimes heated) dialog and debate on this list.  This email list is all the evidence we need that public interaction can bring substance and weight to even the most obscure or administrative of policy issues, and that a shared stake in policy outcomes can coalesce disparate communities into something forceful.

Thanks also to Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has acknowledged the value of public dialog by taking a proactive step in welcoming a conversation outside the comfortable boundaries of political party, the institutions of Congress, and the world of familiar advisers and trusted staff.  Even though nothing in the report is binding in any way, Reid’s embrace of such an open forum will help encourage technological advances, and demonstrate how even a traditional and collegial institution such as the US Senate can take advantage of new communities forming online.

I’m looking forward to working with Senate leaders and staff from both parties, and kicking off the conversation soon about what the Senate might do differently.

The Sunlight Foundation Launches Open Senate Project with Majority Leader Reid’s Endorsement

Collaborative Effort Will Advocate for Transparency in Senate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

October 21, 2008

Contact: Gabriela Schneider 202/742-1520

WASHINGTON, DC – As part of its efforts to work with Congress on how to make itself more open in the Internet age, the Sunlight Foundation is launching The Open Senate Project. This bipartisan, collaborative initiative will study the Senate’s current information-sharing practices to recommend how to improve public access to the Senate’s work on the Web.

This project is modeled off of Sunlight’s parallel initiative, the Open House Project. Founded in 2007, the Open House Project catalyzed public discussion of congressional transparency.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has endorsed Sunlight’s Open Senate Project. “I welcome ideas for how the U.S. Senate can use technology and the Internet to create more transparency for the operations of the U.S. Senate, and to bring us closer to our constituents,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in response to the project’s launch. “To that end, I look forward to the recommendations from the Open Senate Project, which will be an open, public collaborative effort.”

Through an email list and blog, open government leaders from inside and outside Congress and citizens alike will develop recommendations for attainable technological reforms. John Wonderlich, program director for the Sunlight Foundation, will lead the effort in collaboration with project coordinators Josh Tauberer, creator of the nonpartisan Web site GovTrack.us, and Jon Henke, a former Senate staffer who now blogs at TheNextRight.com. Sunlight encourages citizens to give their input by joining the group’s email list.

“We are excited that Senate leaders have recognized the importance of public oversight and evaluation of their online transparency, and we look forward to working with them,” said John Wonderlich. “This initiative will give more citizens a voice to advocate for straightforward reforms to strengthen digital access to the work of the Senate.”

The Open House Project was successful in jump-starting a public discussion that resulted in improvements in the methods that the House of Representatives uses to make its work available online, including releasing legislative data in more user-friendly formats and establishing new rules that allow lawmakers to use Web services like YouTube and Twitter to communicate with their constituents. A full review of the project’s progress is available here.

The Open Senate Project will present its recommendations to Senate leaders in the spring of 2009.

The Sunlight Foundation supports, develops and deploys new Internet technologies to make information about Congress and the federal government more accessible to the American people. Through its projects and grant-making, Sunlight serves as a catalyst to create greater political transparency and to foster more openness and accountability in government. Visit SunlightFoundation.com to learn more about Sunlight’s projects, including PublicMarkup.org, EarmarkWatch.org and OpenCongress.org.

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