PPF Blog

PPF’s OpenCongress Acquired; Announcing Our Next Major Project: “AskThem”


Contact: David Moore, Participatory Politics Foundation – david@ppolitics.org, (917) 753-3462, G-chat: davidrussellmoore


PPF’s OpenCongress.org has been a leading government transparency website since 2007. Next, PPF will launch “AskThem”, a version of the “We The People” petition platform for every elected official.

October 29th, 2013 – 11:00 am ET

The Participatory Politics Foundation is proud to announce that the Sunlight Foundation has acquired OpenCongress.org, the most-visited non-profit website for tracking the U.S. Congress, in a cash transaction for $450,000.

The Participatory Politics Foundation (PPF) is now announcing its next major project: AskThem (http://askthem.io), a free and open-source website for questions-and-answers with public figures. AskThem is also non-profit and non-partisan, with a mission to increase civic engagement.


AskThem is a version of the White House’s “We the People” petition platform for every elected official. AskThem will allow individuals and organizations to ask questions and create petitions directly to over 142,000 elected officials, from local city council members to U.S. senators, enabling online dialogue for continual engagement with government.

David Moore, the Executive Director of the Participatory Politics Foundation, says, “Having OpenCongress be acquired by the Sunlight Foundation is the perfect next step in our non-profit work to help people engage with government. We’re excited to use these resources to launch AskThem as a much-needed online conversation platform with elected officials nationwide.”

Individuals and organizations can sign up now at http://askthem.io to be notified when AskThem will launch, see previews, and be the first to ask a question to their elected officials in an open public forum. AskThem has gathered official government data for over 142,000 U.S. elected officials, from federal to state to city levels of government. Users will also be able to target a question or petition to any public figure with a verified Twitter account.

Created by PPF in 2006, OpenCongress (OC) grew quickly to become a popular resource for tracking and understanding the U.S. Congress. Since its launch in 2007, OC has received 27 million visits, 69 million pageviews, and 300,000 registered users, reaching over one million Web visits per month at peak activity.

OpenCongress uniquely combined official government information with news & blog coverage, campaign contribution data, public comment forums, and a daily blog covering “what’s really happening in Congress” – all in a user-friendly Web interface, with features to view hot bills and helpful search for legislation. The Sunlight Foundation was OC’s founding and primary supporter, and will continue to operate the site as a free & open-source public resource.

In later versions, OC added a community wiki, video, a free social network for tracking and sharing information about Congress, the ability to give a personal vote “aye” or “nay” on bills, head-to-head voting comparisons between members, and innovative participation features such as PPF’s open-source “Formaggedon” tools to email Congress directly and organize around issues in groups. OC’s open data API, free bill & issue widgets, and open-source wiki received tens of millions of automated requests for government data every month.

AskThem, coming soon, will continue PPF’s work to build user-friendly Web tools for staying informed and involved in what’s happening in government. For the first time in an open-source website, AskThem will show visitors all of their federal, state, and municipal elected officials all in one place, simply based on street address. Individuals and organizations will be able to ask questions to elected officials, and sign on to other questions about issues they care about.

When a question reaches a pre-determined signature threshold, AskThem will deliver the question over email and social media to the recipient, and encourage a public response and continuing conversation. Any elected official, from mayors to members of Congress, can sign up for free with AskThem to respond to their constituents on an open, non-profit platform for public dialogue.

AskThem will soon be announcing its first group of U.S. elected officials who have signed-up with AskThem to respond to public questions as leaders in responsive government. Interested elected officials can sign up now for more information at: http://askthem.io/electeds. AskThem’s non-profit Advisory Council includes open-government leaders such as Micah Sifry of Personal Democracy Media, Prof. Zephyr Teachout of Fordham Law School, and Tom Steinberg of mySociety (UK), among others.

“The popularity of the White House’s ‘We The People’ petition platform shows that citizens want to be able to have an open conversation with the people who represent them,” says PPF’s David Moore. “The ability to raise an issue with your city mayor or your U.S. representative, and then organize around it locally and nationally, can be powerful. We think ‘We The People’ should exist for every elected official, and now with AskThem, it does.”

“Over the years, the OpenCongress community demonstrated there is interest in learning more about what Congress is doing and how to hold lawmakers more accountable,” said Ellen Miller, co-founder and executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. “The importance of providing this information freely and reliably to the public is what led Sunlight to be a founding and primary supporter of the site. Those ideals continue as we add new data and features that empower citizens to learn more about and engage with their government.”

For more information, contact David Moore, Executive Director, Participatory Politics Foundation: david@ppolitics.org, (917) 753-3462, G-chat: davidrussellmoore, @ppolitics on Twitter. 

The Participatory Politics Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with a mission to increase civic engagement, using open data to build open-source apps and Web tools. For more information, visit https://participatorypolitics.org and http://askthem.io.

The Sunlight Foundation is a nonpartisan nonprofit that uses cutting-edge technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable. Visit http://SunlightFoundation.com to learn more about Sunlight’s projects, including http://PoliticalPartyTime.org and http://influenceexplorer.com and http://Scout.SunlightFoundation.com.

(Comments feature here on PPolitics blog will be fixed soon; meantime, feel free to comment on Twitter, @ppolitics & @AskThem.)

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