Ellen Miller is the kind of political activist we need: She cofounded the Sunlight Foundation, a forward-looking, nonpartisan (not bipartisan, mind you; her efforts ignore both parties), and populist nonprofit that's dedicated to using technology to provide transparency in government. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, after all.
The Sunlight Foundation has set up several groundbreaking products: OpenCongress, for example, is a free, open-source, public Web site that publishes governmental data, including legislative bills, as well as news, expert blog posts, and social networking info. If you want to know if there really are "death panels" in HR 3590, the recently-passed health-care bill, you could listen to shrill, media-hungry commentators on either side of the debate—or, you could just pop over to OpenCongress and read the damn thing, in its entirety. The content is all wiki-based, so it's easily searchable as well.
The Sunlight Foundation spearheaded Under the Influence, which examines disclosures and earmarks, and provided grants to many other projects. Several focus on tracking the path of money from lobbyists to officials, such as OpenSecrets, FollowTheMoney, OMB Watch, and MAPLight.
A recognized expert on governmental transparency for the past decade, Ellen Miller also cofounded the Center for Responsive Politics and Public Campaign. The former is behind OpenSecrets, which gathers data on federal campaign contributors, PACs, 527s, and lobbyists, and tracks exactly where money is coming from and to whom it's heading.
Miller has said that Washington politicians "will have to be dragged into the 21st century." Her work with the Sunlight Foundation aims to do an awful lot of dragging.
[Photo credit: Bruce Gilden]
Photo credit: Bruce Gilden