WASHINGTON - May 8 - In a presentation to congressional staff and Representatives, members of the Open House Project delivered today recommendations for a series of technological reforms that would increase transparency and public access to the work and members of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Americans are communicating with each other in a ‘Web 2.0' dynamic environment, but Congress is restricted in its online activities by outdated rules implemented when the Web first launched over 10 years ago,” said Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. “The Open House Project convened a diverse, bipartisan group of experts to help open the proceedings of the House of Representatives so it can be the transparent, open-source kind of legislature appropriate for the 21st century.”
A project of the Sunlight Foundation - the Open House Project - is a collaborative effort by government and legislative information experts, congressional staff, non-profit organizers and bloggers to study how the House of Representatives currently integrates the Internet into its operations, and to suggest attainable reforms to promote public access to its work and members.
The group, which includes renowned technologist Clay Shirky, Bush/Cheney 2004 eCampaign Director Mike Turk, Govtrack creator Joshua Tauberer, and leading blogger Markos Moulitsas-Zuniga of the Daily Kos, devised its transparency recommendations online in thoroughly collaborative way — from choosing topics through conversations on a list-serve, to researching House institutions and reforms through blog posts and a wiki, to authoring sections of the report with shared documents online.
“We look forward to working with members and their staff to get their feedback on best ways to implement these reforms, which will help citizens be more confident that their Representatives are working in their interest,” said John Wonderlich, program director of the Sunlight Foundation. “This is truly exciting because our simple and straightforward recommendations will discourage corruption and increase accountability, fostering a deeper connection between civically empowered constituents and their legislators.”
The Open House Project’s reforms include:
- Legislation Database-publish legislative data in structured formats
- Preserving Congressional Information-protect congressional information through archiving and distribution
- Congressional Committees-recognize committees as a public resource by making committee information available online
- Congressional Research Service-share non-partisan research beyond Congress
- Member Web-Use Restrictions-permit members to take full advantage of internet resources
- Citizen Journalism Access-grant House access to non-traditional journalists
- The Office of the Clerk of the House-serve as a source for digital disclosure information
- The Congressional Record-maintain the veracity of a historical document
- Congressional Video-create open video access to House proceedings
- Coordinating Web Standards-commit to technology reform as an administrative priority
“Our recommendations make up the most significant reforms since the mid-1990s, when then-Speaker Newt Gingrich oversaw the creation of the online legislative database called THOMAS and paved the way for members’ Web sites,” said Rob Bluey, director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. “Congress now has a unique opportunity to bridge the partisan divide on an issue that should win broad support among Democrats and Republicans.”
The Open House Project’s report is available at www.theopenhouseproject.com Reader feedback is encouraged.