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Sunlight Foundation

Sunlight Foundation
Motto Making government & politics more accountable & transparent
Founded April 2006 (2006-04)
Founder Mike Klein, Ellen S. Miller
Type 501(c)(3)
Focus Government transparency, money in politics
  • 1818 N Street NW, Suite 300
    Washington, DC 20036
Products Influence Explorer,
Christopher T. Gates[1]
$8,942,875 (2013)[2]
Expenses $6,971,567 (2013)[2]
Website .com.sunlightfoundationwww

The Sunlight Foundation is an American transparency and accountability in the United States Congress, the executive branch, and in state and local governments.[4] The foundation's primary focus is the role of money in politics.[5]


  • Organizational overview 1
  • Activities 2
    • Open House Project and 2.1
    • 2.2
    • Scout 2.3
    • Call on Congress 2.4
    • Politwoops 2.5
    • Upwardly Mobile 2.6
    • Churnalism 2.7
    • Ad Hawk 2.8
    • Events and contests 2.9
  • References 3
  • External links 4

Organizational overview


The Sunlight Foundation was founded by Ellen S. Miller and Michael R. Klein due to their concern about the influence of money in politics. The Sunlight Foundation was launched in April 2006 with a $3.5 million contribution from co-founder Klein, a securities lawyer who started a firm called CoStar Group Inc. in the 1980s.[5][6][7] The first national director of the Sunlight Foundation was law professor Zephyr Teachout.[8]


Ellen Miller, the organization's co-founder, served as the Sunlight Foundation's executive director until announcing her retirement in 2014. In September 2014, Esther Dyson, Allison Fine, Sue Gardner, Mark Horvit, Craig Newmark and Daniel X. O'Neil.[10]


In July 2009, the Sunlight Foundation received the Public Access to Government Information Award from the American Association of Law Libraries.[11]

In July 2010, the Sunlight Foundation won the grand prize of the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism for their Sunlight Live project that incorporates streaming video, liveblogging, social networking, and data presentation.[12]


The Sunlight Foundation's donors include the Open Society Institute, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Omidyar Network.[13][14][15]


The Sunlight Foundation's initiatives include Sunlight Labs, which is an open source community that collects and organizes public data;[16] Influence Explorer, which is an online tool for tracking money in politics;[17] and Foreign Influence Explorer, which tracks lobbyists who represent foreign clients in Washington D.C.[18]

In 2006, the Sunlight Foundation provided funding to the Center for Responsive Politics to improve its campaign finance and lobbying listings and to the Center for Media and Democracy to oversee a joint project called Congresspedia.[5] In June 2006, the Sunlight Foundation reported on Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert's real estate investments, accusing Hastert of not divulging connections between a $207 million earmark he won for a highway and an investment he and his wife made in nearby land.[19]

Open House Project and

In January 2007, the Sunlight Foundation launched the Open House Project, a working group designed to make congressional procedures more transparent.[20] In February 2007, the

  • Official website
  • Sunlight Labs

External links

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  11. ^ "Public Access To Government Information Award" Official Website of the American Association of Law Libraries. Retrieved 2011-01-11
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In March 2010, the Sunlight Foundation announced the Design for America contest to encourage visualizations to make complex government information more understandable to citizens.[42]

In August 2012, the Sunlight Foundation launched Sunlight Academy, an interactive training portal to help journalists, staffers, and citizens use transparency tools to research issues more effectively.[41]

In 2009, the Sunlight Foundation held the first annual TransparencyCamp, a conference where open government advocates met to discuss problems and solutions with government data.[40]

Events and contests

[39][38] In 2012, the Sunlight Foundation launched a mobile application called "Ad Hawk" to identify

Ad Hawk

The online Churnalism tool was launched in 2013 in collaboration with the Media Standards Trust as an open-source plagiarism detection engine. The tool allows users to compare two sources of text to analyze similarities.[36][37]


Demonstrators from the Sunlight Foundation outside Federal Election Commission offices as they discuss the application of Colbert Super PAC

In April 2012, the Sunlight Foundation released Upwardly Mobile, a web application to research where in the United States individuals could enjoy financial security and an improved quality of life. The relocation search tool is mostly powered by publicly available federal economic data that includes employment, salaries, average rents, and local medical and transportation costs.[34][35]

Upwardly Mobile

Politwoops archives deleted tweets by U.S. politicians.[28] The site launched with an archive of thousands of tweets and prompted Rep. Jeff Miller to completely delete his Twitter account after his tweet questioning President Barack Obama's citizenship was made public.[29] Other incidents covered by Politwoops include a number of Republican politicians reacting to incorrect news of the ruling in the Supreme Court's case about health care reform,[30] violations of the social media policies of the House of Representatives' Congressional Handbook by tweeting campaign information[31] and six politicians who deleted tweets praising and welcoming home Taliban prisoner Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after questions arose over the prisoner swap that freed him.[32] Time selected Politwoops as one of their 50 Best Websites of 2012, calling it "strangely fascinating."[33]


Call on Congress is a toll free phone number individuals can call to learn about what Congress is doing.[26] The project hopes to bridge the digital divide by letting callers find out how their representatives are voting on bills and raising campaign money or connect directly to the lawmakers’ Capitol Hill offices and get details on where to vote on Election Day.[27]

Call on Congress

Scout is a tool to create customized keyword alerts that notify users whenever the subscribed issue or bill is talked about in Congress, mentioned in the Federal Register or comes up in state legislation.[24] During beta testing Scout helped a coalition of transparency advocates oppose and remove a FOIA exemption for a bill.[25]


In October 2007, the Sunlight Foundation joined earmarks and identify the sponsors and recipients.[22] In 2008, the Sunlight Foundation launched a project called Public Markup. The project crowdsourced ideas for model transparency legislation.[23]


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