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Web 2.0 and Congressional Oversight

November 06, 2007

Google_earth_earmarks_08 Gabriela Schneider, who used to work in Media Relations at the Council on Foundations, e-mailed me the other day with news about her new employer, the Sunlight Foundation, which, as its Web site states, "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."

Gabriela wanted me -- and you -- to know that her organization is making mini-grants of $1,000 to $5,000 available to nonprofit organizations, individuals, and informal groups of citizens to fund original ideas, tools, Web sites, and blogs that further Sunlight's mission of using the Internet "to create a better, more dynamic relationship between members of Congress and the citizens they represent."

One such example is the Google Earth mash-up that Sunlight itself rolled out today. Drawing on data from its EarmarkWatch.org site, the application plots the locations for almost 1,500 earmarks in the 2007 House Defense Appropriations bill -- and gives anyone with Google Earth on their computer the ability to investigate whether individual earmarks address pressing needs, favor political contributors, or are simply pure pork. In true Web 2.0 fashion, the application also allows users to post comments and notes or contribute his or her own research on any earmark. How can you not love that?

Believing that if you're in the transparency business it's especially important that you be transparent, Sunlight's co-founder and executive director Ellen Miller also blogs daily.

To learn more about the organization's grants and mini-grants, click here and here. And to start navigating earmarks in 3-D, download the Google Earth application and then download Sunlight's House Defense file.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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Posted by Michael Rissinger  |   November 07, 2007 at 07:42 AM

Sunlight Foundation is a .com, not a .org (.org seems to be a make-up site)

Posted by Mitch Nauffts  |   November 07, 2007 at 08:37 AM

Oops, my bad. Thanks, Michael, I've fixed the link.

For those who may not know, Sunlight was launched in April 2006 with a $3.5 million contribution from Michael Klein, a D.C.-based attorney. Donors include the Omidyar Network ($2 million), the Rockefeller Family Fund ($1.9 million), David Bonderman ($250,000), the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation ($100,000), and the Fuller Foundation ($40,000). For a complete list of the organization's donors, see:

http://sunlightfoundation.com/funding

Posted by Gabriela Schneider  |   November 07, 2007 at 09:52 AM

Thanks for the post, Mitch!

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