Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Update On "Let The Sun Shine"

Project Sunlight Website Is Open For Business; So Far, It Shines Most Bright

Let us bask in the glow of open and transparent government, if only but for a moment.

Project Sunlight is now accessible by ALL, and the information available, while not earth-shattering, by any means, is at least eye-opening.

Want to know who contributed to your State Legislators' campaigns? You might just be surprised (or maybe not).

How about where $170 million in "member item" funding went? Its all there. Every penny.

Maybe you'd like to track bills (and who lobbied on them) in the State Senate or Assembly? Go right ahead. The information is at your fingertips!

You can even search for lobbyists, by category or by name.

We won't say that Project Sunlight is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but it is the best tool -- in the sense of open government -- since someone slipped a slice of that bread under a microscope, and saw all those little microbes running around.

Sure, most of the information contained in this exhaustive database is out there, somewhere, in one form or another. Having it all in one place at the same time? Priceless!

For sure, we're staying up late tonight to see who lobbied which legislators on what bills, who made contributions to whom, and where that "member item" money was spent.

Yes, there are a few shortcomings on the website, such as not being able to link directly from that part of the site that shows, for instance, the lobbyist, to the specific bills they lobbied for or against, but hey, this is only the first day out.

Transparency and accountability, longed talked about and debated in Albany, is finally seeing the light of day. Welcome!

Kudos to long-time public interest advocate -- Blair Horner -- a 25 year veteran of NYPIRG and an authority on government ethics and reform, who heads this project, and has done a bang up job hitting the ground running.

Praise, too, must go to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and (as we bite our lips), Governor Eliot Spitzer, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, whose collaberation and cooperation (begrudging or not) were needed to make this database a reality.

And let's not forget, in the euphoria of the moment, the thanks owed to the Fourth Estate -- the press -- for probing, proding, and in some cases, litigating, thus assuring and protecting the public's right to know.

Step one toward good government has been taken in New York. Let's keep marching forward!

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