Blackberry Bounty Hunters

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Finally, snoops and whiners have a chance to use their powers for good, not evil. The Sunlight Network's Punch Clock Campaign is bribing them, "offering $1,000 to people who get a Senator or Congressman to put their John Hancocks on a pledge to release their schedules," report Bree Hocking and Josh Kurtz for Roll Call:

The group wants Members to post their daily schedules on the Internet, including lists of their meetings, with whom they met and functions they attend, including fundraisers.

Anyone who can get a federal candidate to sign up will receive $250 from the "punch the clock" campaign.

The Sunlight Network, which is largely underwritten by Michael Klein, a securities lawyer and restaurateur, says its goal is to "enable citizens to learn more about what Congress and their elected representatives are doing, and thus help reduce corruption, ensure greater transparency and accountability by government, and foster public trust in the vital institutions of democracy,"

The schedules Members post will probably contain a fair amount of fudges and untruths–no one is going to put "3:00—3:15: Accept briefcase full of unmarked bills" in their public Blackberry calendar. But there's bound to more interesting infomation in a public schedule than in any kind of disclosure requirements that Congress crafts for itself. Campaign finance reform has been such a roaring success for transparency, after all.

The kind of raw-ish data that will appear in publicly available schedules tends to unintentionally reveal points of interest. And with an Internet full of busybodies to mine and cross-reference it, chronicles of casual lunch appointments will probably do more for accountability than any number or Abramoff-related reforms or lunch spending limits.

So start nagging your congressmen, and maybe pick up some easy money in the process.

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