New Web site proposes creating congressional legislation online

New blog site, started by political veterans and bloggers, is trying something new--allowing Net roots activists to help write legislation.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second ranking Democrat in the U.S. Senate leadership, has opened the virtual doors of law writing to Internet citizens. This is a compelling idea as the Internet continues to find ways to democratize information and support the flattening of the political process in our country.

The senator writes in, the new project hosting this:

"Today I'm writing to invite you to participate in an experiment--an interactive approach to drafting legislation on one of the most significant public policy questions today: What should be America's national broadband strategy?"

One of the new Web site's leaders describes the idea of online legislation this way:

"Legislating is often known as a sausage factory, or a contest of interests done in private...a lot of the negative impressions of our lawmaking bodies comes from the secrecy of the process. With the Internet, we can put everyone and every lobbyist on a level playing field, and have a genuinely open contest of ideas."

It's doubtful that the Web will put every citizen on a level-playing field with the legions of professional congressional staff whose job is to study an issue and craft legislation with their elected bosses. It's doubtful, actually, that we would want avocation to play an equal role with vocation in this arena. It's also difficult to see how the thousands of full-time lobbyists in D.C., many of whom represent very powerful and well-funded corporations, will be outdone by part-time online activists.

Yet, even if this OpenLeft effort does not create equality, opening up the legislative process even a little bit can make a difference in D.C.

Happily, the Internet, as the CNN/YouTube debates demonstrate, continues to provide new tools for Americans to do politics in the most old-fashioned way--by participating.

Stay tuned.

About the author

    Technology intersects with public policy and American politics in profound and ever-changing ways. Politics, policy, and technology explores this intersection and how it has impacted the government and society in ways that activists, operatives, and observers are just beginning to understand. Donnie Fowler has achieved a leading role in both political and high technology circles through work in Silicon Valley, at the White House and the Federal Communications Commission, and on the ground helping Democratic campaigns in every corner of the nation. Fowler's campaign highlights include service as Al Gore's national field director in 2000 and as a candidate for Democratic National Chairman in 2005, where he finished as the runner-up to Howard Dean. His technology background includes several years as vice president of TechNet, a Silicon Valley-based network of venture capitalists and senior executives.


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