CMD is a non-profit, public interest organization that seeks to strengthen participatory democracy by investigating and exposing spin and propaganda in government. It aims to do this by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism, and by sponsoring "open content" media that enables all citizens to "be the media" and participate in creating media content. Its projects include PR Watch, a quarterly investigative journal; and SourceWatch, a wiki-based investigative journalism resource that is the mother-wiki for Congresspedia.
The Sunlight Foundation is dedicated to promoting greater examination and awareness of the inner workings of Congress through a combination of grant-making and programs that will stimulate more investigative attention to the institution and its members. It does so by producing analyses, studies, and information about lawmakers, legislation and lobbyists; providing new tools and training to make essential data more easily accessible to reporters and citizen activists; creating an interactive conversation with the public about how Congress does its work; providing grants to writers, media outlets, bloggers and software developers; and establishing awards and incentive grants for investigative reporting on Congress. Sunlight's goal is to change the relationship between representatives and voters, producing greater transparency in how elected officials go about their business and allowing voters to hold their lawmakers accountable for what they do in Washington D.C.
Because the articles in Congresspedia are released by their authors under the GNU Free Documentation License, the articles are open content. Therefore, it cannot be said that Congresspedia is "owned" by Sunlight and CMD.
The purpose of Congresspedia is to give citizens and media the ability to root out corruption and bring transparency to the system. It is based on a set of basic ideas:
- A well-informed public is an essential ingredient of a healthy democracy.
- Most people feel they are not being well represented in Washington, while "special interests" are. Despite this fact, however, most citizens could not name the specific interest groups that support and lobby their own representatives.
- The cost of winning election to Congress has become so expensive that most members raise funds year-round and work hard to maintain good relations not just with their constituents back home, but also with the "cash constituents" who supply the money for their campaigns. Everyone needs to know who these cash constituents are.
- Despite the constant flow of news from Washington D.C., much of what happens in the halls of Congress is not widely known outside of the nation's capital – and plenty of insiders like it that way.
How Congresspedia works
Congresspedia is an edited wiki
A wiki <wick-ee> is a type of website that allows anyone visiting the site to add, remove, or edit all content very quickly and easily. This ease of interaction and operation makes a wiki an effective tool for collaborative writing.
Congresspedia started in April 2006 with articles on each U.S. senator and U.S. representative, but this was intended to be only the foundation upon which citizens would build a vast knowledge base on Congress. Visitors to Congresspedia are encouraged to contribute to existing articles, create new ones, and if they feel something that appears is unfair or inaccurate, edit the contributions of others.
Congresspedia requires registration to contribute
As part of the effort to combat vandalism, Congresspedia and SourceWatch require users to register before they contribute. Registration is not required, however, to read the material on either site.
- April 26, 2006: Congresspedia is publicly launched.
- July 3, 2004: SourceWatch is the world's 14th biggest wiki website by mere article count.
- March 10, 2003: SourceWatch is publicly launched.
- January 15, 2003: SourceWatch is first created.
- December 18, 2002: PR Watch editor Sheldon Rampton attends a conference in Amsterdam hosted by World-Information.org and first learns about Wikipedia.