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Sunlight Foundation

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The Sunlight Foundation was founded in January 2006 with the goal of using the revolutionary power of the Internet and new information technology to enable citizens to learn more about what Congress and their elected representatives are doing, and thus help reduce corruption, ensure greater transparency and accountability by government, and foster public trust in the vital institutions of democracy. At the core of all of the Foundation's work is a focus the power of technology and the Internet to transform the relationship between citizen's and their government.

The Foundation's initial projects – from the establishment of a Congresspedia, the making of “transparency grants”[1][2] for the development and enhancement of databases and websites, and two separate efforts to engage the public in distributed journalism and offer online tutorials on the role of money in politics efforts – are based on the premise that the collective power of citizens to demand greater accountability is the clearest route to reform.

Sunlight aims to help citizens, journalists and bloggers be their own best watchdogs[3], both by improving access to existing information and digitizing new information, and by creating new tools and websites to enable all of us to pool our intelligence in new, and yet to be imagined, ways.

Staff and Consultants

Technology Advisors:

People

Accessed July 2008: [1]

Board of Directors

Advisory Board

People (from January 2007)

Board of Directors (in development)

Advisory Board (in development)

Source

Grants

  • $2,500 to BluegrassReport.org for software upgrades. In barely a year, BluegrassReport.org has reached its technological limit with its very basic website as it communicates with its 25,000 readers a week. The Sunlight Foundation's mini grant is crucial for a growing this organization, allowing it to upgrade its website and adding needed software to better educate the voters as it highlights the issues of political corruption and transparency in government, particularly in Kentucky.
  • $100,000 to Capitol News Connection to fund an interactive widget that will allow citizens, via public radio stations’ Web sites throughout the country, to ask lawmakers specific questions and get responses
  • $25,000 to the Center for Citizen Media to develop an Election Year Demonstration Project Web site to cover everything that can be reported on a congressional election, with an emphasis on drawing on the talents and ideas of local citizen journalists.
  • $55,000 to the Center for Democracy and Technology to support its OpenCRS project which harnesses the power of the Internet to promote the distribution of Congressional Research Service reports to the public
  • $100,000 to the Center for Independent Media to support an effort to establish a national branch of its New Journalist Program in Washington, DC for training of political news bloggers who will cover Congress, federal agencies, the presidency, Supreme Court and the influence of lobbying, the national press corps and campaign finance
  • $325,090 to the Center for Responsive Politics to create databases on lobbyists, 527s, personal financial disclosures and travel, and to expand its campaign finance databases
  • $117,000 to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to fund the launch of its Open Community Open Document Review System, which 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
  • $235,000 to support Congresspedia, the citizen's encyclopedia to Congress, which anyone can edit. Congresspedia is a non-profit joint project of the Center for Media and Democracy and The Sunlight Foundation and is a part of SourceWatch.
  • $1,600 to Connecticut Local Politics for acquisition of polling data, a video camera, and the cost of web hosting. Connecticut Local Politics is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit blog covering Connecticut politics from town halls to the state's delegation in the U.S. Congress. The site, which was launched in January of 2005, welcomes all points of view, and includes opinion pieces on the news of the day from many viewpoints, interviews, live online question-and-answer sessions with candidates, an informational wiki about the 2006 election and coverage of major events.
  • $277,000 to MAPLight.org to provide core funding to support the organization’s newly launched Web 2.0 federal search engine that interactively exposes the links between dollars donated by interested parties and congressional votes
  • $157,000 to Metavid to create an open, online platform that contains a video archive of public domain U.S. House and Senate proceedings built completely on open source tools
  • $50,000 to the National Institute on Money in State Politics to support the development and implementation of several application program interfaces (APIs) so programmers can access and display in their own applications the Institute’s data on campaign contributions to political campaigns at the state level
  • $10,000 to NewAssignment.Net to support its launch and work to spur journalistic innovation by grouping veteran journalists and passionate amateurs in online, collaborative reporting efforts
  • $10,000 to NewsTrust.net to support its work to harness social wisdom to aggregate and highlight quality online journalism about elected representatives, with a focus on accountability, corruption and transparency in Congress
  • $384,713 to The Focus Project’s OMB Watch to support a project to define a proactive agenda to modernize and increase public disclosure of government information and the organization’s Fedspending.org Web site. This project 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
  • $25,000 to People for the American Way’s Young Elected Officials Network to support a track on government transparency and accountability at its Young Elected Officials Network annual training and networking conference
  • $10,000 to The Project on Government Oversight. A one-time grant to support investigative reporting and blogging on the "revolving door" between the government and the private sector.
  • $200,000 to ReadtheBill.org to provide initial funding for the public educations efforts of this new organization, the leading advocate for open floor deliberations in the U.S. Congress, to require legislation and conference reports to be posted on the Internet for 72 hours before floor consideration
  • $35,000 to Room Eight, a blog that covers New York politics. This grant supported the expansion of its nonpartisan coverage of the 29 New York congressional members, including their legislative and budgetary activities and earmarks
  • $22,000 to Taxpayers for Common Sense to enable the organization to develop a comprehensive plan to integrate and advance the use of the Internet and related technologies into their overall work.
  • WashingtonWatchdog.org. A grant to meet the immediate hardware needs of this online research service of federal data. This grant will enable all features of Washington Watchdog to be viewed and used simultaneously; increase the number of topics that can be developed; and increase the range and depth of the searchable information. $15,000.
  • $4,873 to TheWeekInCongress.com for software and hosting. In its third year, TheWeekInCongress.com is a free, non-partisan Website that explains all bills and resolutions that the U.S. Congress considers on the floor each week and how much they will cost the taxpayers. Their reports simplify legislative language thereby empowering voters to participate in democracy from a well-informed position. Readers can easily contact their lawmakers from the website. TheWeekInCongress.com is also a source of story ideas for editors, enterprise reporters and columnists in all media markets.

Projects

In addition to grants to other organizations, the Sunlight Foundation conducts a number of its own projects:

Sunlight Labs

Sunlight Labs is a Sunlight Foundation pilot project to prototype tech ideas to improve government transparency and political influence disclosure.[4] Greg Elin and Micah Sifry are co-directors.

Earmark Watch

Earmark Watch invites [citizen journalism|citizen journalists] to investigate earmarks — those spending measures inserted by members of Congress into bills that direct taxpayer dollars to their pet projects.

LOUIS

  • The Library Of Unified Information Sources is an effort, to paraphrase Justice Louis Brandeis, to illuminate the workings of the federal government. Our ultimate goal is to create a comprehensive, completely indexed and cross-referenced depository of federal documents from the executive and legislative branches of government.

Popup Politicians

"Popup Politicians is an AJAX-powered widget which contacts a remote database here at Sunlight to retrieve links we've selected for a politician. The single Javascript that powers the mouse-over "bubbles" is served from Sunlight Labs server along with the data. When you load the page, the Javascript looks for Technorati-styled link tags for Members of Congress on the web page and then dynamically modifies found links to add the rollover action and a mouse-over bubble."[5]

Links to Popup Politician Stories:

Sunlight Network

Sunlight Network is the advocacy arm of the Sunlight Foundation. It supports small projects, runs national campaigns, and provides a social networking hub where people who want to create change can meet. The Network is headed by Zephyr Teachout.[6]

Real Time Investigations

The Sunlight Foundation sponsors Real Time Investigations, an ongoing diary of the work of journalists Bill Allison and Anupama Narayanswamy as they work on trying to make Congress more transparent. Stories they have reported include the following:

Dennis Hastert's Real Estate Investments

On June 14th, 2006 Senior Fellow Bill Allison reported that House Speaker Dennis Hastert "has used an Illinois trust to invest in real estate near the proposed route of the Prairie Parkway, a highway project for which he's secured $207 million in earmarked appropriations." Hastert's 2005 financial disclosure form "makes no mention of the trust. Hastert lists several real estate transactions in the disclosure, all of which were in fact done by the trust. Kendall County public records show no record of Hastert making the real estate sales he made public today; rather, they were all executed by the trust." The story caused the Speaker's lawyers to threaten legal action for "false, libelous and defamatory" statements.

The story was subsequently picked up by the mainstream press including The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, NPR, The Hill, Salon, ABC News, among others. The local Aurora Beacon ran a two-part series on the Prairie Parkway and Hastert's land deal.

Hastert Real Estate Resources

Articles

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles

References

  1. Directors, Sunlight Foundation, accessed July 21, 2008.