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ProPublica launches tool to track Congressional members, encourages data download!

I’ve had a tab open to this ProPublica post “A New Way to Keep an Eye on Who Represents You in Congress” for a couple of weeks and just now getting around to sharing. Their new project called “Represent” is a great way to track on lawmakers, the bills they consider and the votes they take (and miss). Search for your legislators by address, ZIP code or name. A very handy tool indeed. But 2 things stand out especially about this new effort: 1) “Represent” not only collates data from a variety of government resources (see below) but they also point out to other sites that offer valuable features like individual lawmaker and bill pages on GovTrack and C-SPAN; and 2) They’re making available all the data that they use through their API. Their data sources include:

Check it out, bookmark it, and let your library patrons know about it!

Today ProPublica is launching a new interactive database that will help you keep track of the officials who represent you in Congress.

The project is the continuation of two projects I worked on at The New York Times — the first is the Inside Congress database, which we are taking over at ProPublica starting today.

But we also have big plans for it. While the original interactive database at The Times focused on bills and votes, our new project adds pages for each elected official, where you can find their latest votes, legislation they support and statistics about their voting. As we move forward we want to add much more data to help you understand how your elected officials represent you, the incentives that drive them and the issues they care about.

In that way, it is also a continuation of another project I worked on at the Times. In late 2008, The New York Times launched an app called Represent that connected city residents with the officials who represented them at the local, state and federal levels. It was an experiment in trying to make it easier to keep track of what elected officials were doing.

Because ProPublica is rekindling that effort, we’re calling the new project Represent.

The new Represent will help you track members, votes and bills in the House of Representatives and Senate. We’re also launching a Congress API, or Application Programming Interface, so developers can get data about what Congress is doing, too.

via A New Way to Keep an Eye on Who Represents You in Congress – ProPublica.

Only 15% of Congressional Websites Are Ready for HTTPS

A Sunlight Foundation analysis found only 15 percent of congressional websites are ready for HTTPS.

  • Sunlight analysis reveals only 15 percent of congressional websites are HTTPS ready by Tim Ball, Sunlight Foundation (May 26, 2015).

    In this article we will describe the methodology of the survey and present the survey results. We will also offer a brief analysis of what can be done to address the situation. It is important to note that this evaluation should not and is not a reflection on individual members of Congress or their websites, but is reflective of the entities that host those websites. We know this because across the 652 websites surveyed they were only served from 24 IP addresses.

    Sunlight is interested in seeing Congress take sound steps to properly secure its — and the American people’s — information. This author, in particular, hopes that lawmakers will read this analysis and ponder some of the questions that have been raised, potentially making changes to improve their security practices. To that end, we’ll run these tests again periodically to identify any changes that they may or may not make. See you all very soon!

Twenty Years of THOMAS

Andrew Weber, Legislative Information Systems Manager at the Law Library of Congress, writes about the history of THOMAS, which is now Congress.gov.

  • Twenty Years of THOMAS, by Andrew Weber, In Custodia Legis, blog of the Law Library of Congress (January 5, 2015).

Electronic Toolbox for Congressional Information

Daniel Schuman, Policy Director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), has posted a list of very useful free digital tools that should be of use to “any self-respecting congressional staffer, Member of Congress, journalist, or public advocate.” Daniel notes that “All are free, run on information published by Congress or cobbled together from official sources, and most are built on open source code.” These are good free sources and good alternatives to the (sometimes pricy) commercial sources.

Some headings:

Committee Meeting Calendar
Follow House Floor Action
Google Alerts for Government (but not Google)
Collaboratively Write the Bill
Read the Bill
Read the Law
Congressional Staff Directory
Inspector General Reports
Searchable Press Releases
House Activities
A Few More Tricks

Search Congressional Press Releases

Derek Willis posted a brief announcement of a new service that will allow you to browse & search (titles only) congressional releases. An API is forthcoming.

I wonder if any library will be smart enough to make use of the API to preserve these elusive (dare I say, “fugitive”?) documents?