OpenCongress was conceived by the Participatory Politics Foundation in 2004. OpenCongress was initially built and launched publicly in 2007 as a joint project of PPF and the Sunlight Foundation. Since January of 2010, OpenCongress has been operated solely by PPF and remains in active open-source development (volunteers and donations warmly welcomed).
OpenCongress combines official government data with news and blog coverage, social networking, and participation tools to give you the real story behind what’s happening in Congress. Read more about the project and its public mission; how to use its info; and our free resources. Visit the most-viewed bills, hot bills by issue area, and the most-active bills with our user community. Read our user-friendly Blog, contribute to our publicly-editable Wiki, and see what’s happening in your state and district.
Developers: read more about our code, visit our transparent (yes!) wish list, and contact us to get involved. We seek to add new data sources about money in politics, add valuable educational material, and expand our non-profit web development team to better meet the needs of our large user community. With more resources, OpenCongress can become radically more useful, and quickly. We have big plans — help us build amazing new open-source features on OpenCongress.
OpenGovernment is currently in early open-source development, with a planned public beta launch later in 2010 and updates continuing to roll out over 2011. Ever since we conceived of OpenCongress in 2004, we’ve realized that the model of combining government data with social wisdom in order to facilitate civic engagement can and should be applied to other levels of government: state legislatures, city councils, neighborhood associations, international institutions, the other branches of the federal government (Executive and Judicial), public-mission institutions such as schools & hospitals, foreign countries with more-or-less democratic systems, and more. We’re working towards a future in which the public at large can conveniently access the best available info about all public actions at every level of government, then organize civic actions of their own in response and in dialogue with their elected officials.
Towards this end, we’re working with our partners at Sunlight Labs on the community-driven Open States Project, with the goal of establishing a data standard and collecting machine-readable data streams for all 50 U.S. State Legislatures. These data streams will provide official government info to GovKit, the open-source application that combines it with other publicly-available data sources and social wisdom from around the open Web. GovKit, in turn, will power the OpenGovernment website: essentially, free and non-partisan versions of OpenCongress for all fifty state legislatures and a dozen major cities, with even more local versions planned. We’ll continue to encourage volunteers to remix the code for city, county, or municipal governments. Along the way, we’re working to make our code more modular and better-documented, in order to make it possible for volunteers to make their own versions of OpenGovernment with an emphasis on the issues they and their communities care about. Overall, we have a good start on a more transparent government, but we’ve just begun — we need more resources to take OpenGovernment to the next level and enable more powerful civic engagement. If you are in a position to contribute to our non-profit work, or for more detailed information, please contact us.
PPF will create the first-ever centralized, query-able and shareable repository of congressional scorecards created by issue groups, on OpenCongress.org. Scorecards are invaluable sources of information because they contain descriptions and positions on individual votes written by subject matter experts from established positions. While these issue groups spend a great deal of time and money creating these scorecards, they are generally locked up in PDFs or other difficult-to-share formats in difficult-to-find locations, leaving this wealth of information inaccessible to the public and forcing bloggers, reporters, researchers and citizens to duplicate their research and reinvent the wheel every time they want to know what a particular vote was about.
PPF’s project will enable everyone to view, download and share this information and access it either by politician or vote, providing a constellation of views within which everyone can triangulate their own personal truth. And we will do this with cooperative, community labor. Read our grant application to Creative Commons.
The RaceTracker project on the OpenCongress wiki tracks every 2010 election for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and state governor. The power of the fully sourced and open-source wiki project comes from the citizens across the country researching, writing and fact-checking the information here. All information on RaceTracker is required to be referenced to an outside news source, and no partisan information is included. Here’s what you can find:
- Candidates for each seat and their status
- Campaign contribution information
- District maps, past election results, and more
RaceTracker serves the common interest of knowing everyone running to represent us in our government. All structured data available for query via semantic MediaWiki.