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Thursday, 30th July 2009

Impressive! OpenCongress Receives Comprehensive Redesign, Adds New Features

If you or those you work with have any interest in the workings of the U.S. Congress and related matters, OpenCongress is one impressive (and free) resource. Today, they went live with a major update along with adding several new tools.

Here are some of the highlights via the OpenCongress blog post. We strongly recommend taking a look at it.

Besides the new design, we’re also going public with a bunch of new features today that make it easier for people to turn their browsing and research of bills before Congress into powerful political action, instantly.

Here’s what else is new today on OpenCongress:

+ Contact Congress...Now from any page on OpenCongress, you’re just one click away from sending an email to your Senator or Representative. For example, if you’re researching a bill in Congress and you decide that you want your Representative to sign onto it as a co-sponsor, just click the “write your Rep. button” on the right-hand sidebar and an email form will pop out that you can use to send them your message, as shown in the screen shot below. This kind of self-directed activism has a powerful effect on lawmakers. Try it out at this bill page, for example.

+ Watchdog Congress – Now you can track how every vote your members of Congress take on passing bills compares to your own personal votes, “aye” or “nay,” and how they compare to what constituents in your state and district support and oppose.

+ The OpenCongress API – All of our uniquely-aggregated data about Congress and user-generated content on the site is now freely available via API for web programmers to remix and share on their own websites.

+ RaceTracker – We announced this last month, but since then hundreds of people have added their knowledge and helped to make this into an incredible one-stop resource for every 2010 Senate and House race.

+ Social Tracking – We’ve added more helpful ways to find the things in Congress that are important to you. On the page of any bill, issue, or Member of Congress, see what other users tracking that item are also tracking, as well as what they are supporting and opposing.

+ More Data – We’ve added detailed new data on campaign contributions for lawmakers and bills from OpenSecrets and MAPLight, congressional scorecards from issue-based organizations on the OpenCongress Wiki, and more. You can see a big picture perspective of the money trail in Congress, or click the “money trail” tab on any bill, senator or representative page for details on which companies are funding the lobbying efforts and campaigns. For an example, here’s an overview of the money behind the stimulus.

+ RaceTracker – We announced this last month, but since then hundreds of people have added their knowledge and helped to make this into an incredible one-stop resource for every 2010 Senate and House race. The Racetracker is a crowd-sourced project that allows individuals to add information about who’s running for office in their district and state, as long as the info is referenced to an outside source.


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