The Open House Project from The Sunlight Foundation

Transparency Caucus Launch Remarks

April 30th, 2010 by John Wonderlich · No Comments

Here are my prepared marks from yesterday’s launch event for the Transparency Caucus.  More details are available at Daniel’s blog post yesterday, or at TransparencyCaucus.org.

Good afternoon, I’m John Wonderlich, and I am the policy director of the Sunlight Foundation. Thank you so much for joining us today.

I’d like to specifically extend a sincere thanks to Representatives Quigley and Issa for leading the House in creating a Caucus devoted to openness in government. Indeed, we should all praise the members of the Congressional Transparency Caucus for their extraordinary leadership toward creating a more open government. The Sunlight Foundation has long been hoping for this kind of forum to emerge.

Sunlight takes its inspiration from Justice Brandeis’ powerful adage, “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

At the heart of our mission is a belief that technology can be used to create a more informed and engaged citizenry, and a more accountable and responsive government.

Our role as citizens is only as strong as our government is open.  This idea is not an abstract, distant kind of public good, since our core actions as citizens all depend on public information.

Three years ago (almost to this day), I stood in the Capitol discussing recommendations from a broad, bipartisan community — the Open House Project — that Sunlight convened to create consensus around reforms that would increase transparency in Congress. In the three years since then, many of these recommendations have become reality.

The restrictions on how members of Congress use the Internet in their official capacity have been fundamentally redrawn, allowing for new creative engagement between citizens and representatives.  The Senate has released structured votes data, for the first time.  Committees now post far more primary source documents, and are more fully filling their roles as providers of public information.  Just this week, the House launched HouseLive.gov, vastly improving access to video of floor proceedings.

These changes accompany a rising cultural expectation for more information online. The broad aspirations of the Open Government Directive, the new analysis that is possible because the House publishes its disbursements online, the new expectation for major bills to be posted online for 72 hours — these are each fueled by public demand for more information, and, at the same time, they are made real because someone in power recognized them as valuable and important enough to act on.

Our national public information is as complex as the government that creates it.  For that reason, transparency reforms have to negotiate a complex set of governmental jurisdictions.

In other words, transparency policy requires unique coordination.

For that reason, we see the creation of the Congressional Transparency Caucus as enormously valuable and historically significant.

And to help advise the Caucus on the emerging trends in open government, the Sunlight Foundation is pleased to announce that we are creating the Advisory Committee on Transparency. The Advisory Committee shares the underlying goals of the Congressional Transparency Caucus and will work to educate Congress and the public about transparency-related issues.

(It is important to note that the Advisory Committee, unlike the Congressional Transparency Caucus, is not part of government.) You can find out more about the Advisory Committee at TransparencyCaucus.org.

In addition to supporting the across-the-aisle collaboration, the new Transparency Caucus will allow representatives to deepen their expertise on transparency matters and engage the American public through education, legislation, and oversight.

We look forward to continuing to work with all of you, and look forward to Congress’s sustained role in safeguarding and improving public access in our country.

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