I'm often told that being non-partisan is
an ambiguous position.
Here at Sunlight, I don't think anyone can accuse of us as being ambiguous. We dole out the punches as often as we take them. We could side up with one ideological team and only expose ourselves to attack from either the left or the right.
We don't and we won't -- we're willing to expose ourselves to attack from all ideological corners because we believe that transparency is one of the few issues the entire political spectrum can agree on and fight for. There are already plenty of clear partisan choices for Americans to make on everything from the economy to the environment. Transparency doesn't have to be -- and shouldn't be -- one of them.
Individuals staffers at Sunlight have their own personal political beliefs, but a serious analysis of our work shows us going after the issues that matter to open government -- regardless of the party and sect opposing us. But being non-partisan doesn't just mean attacking both sides equally -- it's also about listening equally. Thankfully, that was made logistically easier on us this year (and in previous years) when both Netroots Nation and RightOnline -- respectively two of the largest gatherings of online progressives and conservatives -- scheduled their yearly conferences in Las Vegas at the same time. Two notes from my time there stand out -- my friends on the left wanted better tools to show the influence on money in government. My friends on the right wanted better tools to show the spending of government.It's a false choice of course -- we need both.
First, we created Poligraft -- a one-click tool to show the hidden influence connections in a news article (or any piece of text for that matter). Wondering why your senator's position sounds so similar to Interest Group X? With one click, you can see how much cash they've thrown your representative's way.
While Sunlight doesn't take a position on how we should spend our tax dollars, we can be as frustrated as anyone when there's so much bad data in the government's checkbook. Knowing what's already in our collective checkbook is absolutely critical to crafting sound economic policy. It's time for Clearspending -- a forthcoming project from Sunlight that will help make sense of the federal checkbook. We're releasing it this fall, so sign up for our e-mail list or Twitter feed so you're notified as soon as it drops.
These are just two projects out of many on which we think citizens of all political stripes can unify. What open government issues in your communities are ripe for non-partisan action?
Noah Kunin is the Multimedia Content Producer for the Sunlight Foundation. He leads the conceptualization and production of high-quality, creative and persuasive visual content that works in concert with articles and initiatives across the Sunlight Foundation's network. He also works with the latest technologies and open video community to connect government data to video content.
Paul Blumenthal is the Senior Writer at the Sunlight Foundation. A regular blogger for the site, Paul touches on a wide variety of transparency-related subjects including congressional corruption, the bank bailout, lobbying disclosures and the news of the day.
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GOVERNING By the Numbers is a companion to GOVERNING Data that digests the growing body of work at the intersection of computer-assisted journalism, data visualization and government transparency.
GOVERNING By the Numbers is dedicated to telling important stories through numbers, with a focus on both our original work in data visualization on GOVERING Data and providing an ongoing tally of editor's picks of new and notable data releases of use to those in government and those who care about it.