Craig Newmark Makes New List for Congress
title=Internet: Ultimate Tool for Participatory Democracy} The ultimate tool for participatory democracy, Newmark stressed, is the Internet. "Any politician or corporate leader needs to know the Internet. If not, they're out of touch," he said. Congress, Newmark said, is desperately in need of getting in touch. With millions of e-mails flooding Capitol Hill over the Wall Street bailout bill, the problem for lawmakers was the ability to distinguish between "known constituents" and "click-to-complain" form letters from lobbying groups.Congress also needs to identify "authentic constituent communities" and to develop bulletin boards and forums to let those constituencies have a voice. Now, if only Newmark can persuade the U.S. Senate to buy into his ideas. He and the Sunlight Foundation are actively working the chamber to win passage of the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act (S. 223), which would require members of the Senate to electronically file their campaign finance reports as the U.S. House and presidential candidates already do. "They do it on paper now. Big deal, you're not really going to be able to search the paper," he said. Although the legislation enjoys wide support, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has placed a hold on the bill. Ensign insists he'll remove the hold when an amendment is added to the bill that would require that groups filing ethics complaints against senators reveal their financing sources. Supporters of the legislation complain that Ensign just wants to throw a poison pill into the bill. "Hey, just pass the thing. Otherwise, it looks like they are trying to hide something," Newmark said. Newmark's opinion of the bill is just another example of the self-described "Libertarian moderate" already practicing transparency when it comes to his own politics.
"You've got to have staff members who are monitoring the Internet, people who know what's the buzz," Newmark said. "You need people to filter out the bad stuff and filter in the good stuff."