Pelosi right to encourage openness 

Shortly after leading Democrats back into the majority for the first time in a dozen years, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised "the most honest, ethical, and open Congress in history." The jury is still out on Pelosi’s overall efforts to date, but in one area she has already excelled by encouraging a bipartisan group of new media true believers seeking to bring Congress into the digital revolution.

The group is the Sunlight Foundation’s OpenHouse Project, which is studying House procedures and preparing a comprehensive report with recommendations on how to use the Internet to make Congress more transparent and thus more accountable to voters. Soon after its formation, Pelosi said "the Internet is an incredible vehicle for transparency, honest leadership and open government. I am encouraged by this working group and look forward to recommendations on how the House can be as open and accessible to citizens as possible."

A related Sunlight project recently demonstrated how far behind Congress is in adapting to the Internet. Sunlight mobilized hundreds of citizen journalists to evaluate the official web sites of all 535 members of Congress. Among the findings: 372 member sites do not provide such basic information as committee assignments or the bills sponsored by the individual member. Only six Members post their daily schedules on their official web sites.

While evaluating the sites, Sunlight’s citizen journalists also calculated a transparency percentage for each member, with 40 percent considered a passing score. The 34 California Democrats scored an average of 35 percent, while the state’s 19 Republicans came in with a 32 percent score. The overall score for Congress was only 29 percent.

The OpenHouse Project report is expected to recommend commonsense measures such as posting searchable, indexed bill texts 72 hours before they are voted on, putting congressional financial disclosure reports online and making Congressional Research Service reports available online. Of such reforms are genuine progress made toward truly open government.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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