Knowledge is power. And I want to give everyone the power to shape our government. That’s why I built www.GovTrack.us more than a decade ago to help Americans keep tabs on the U.S. Congress. Now nearly 10 million people use GovTrack each year to read bills and track votes. Students, concerned citizens, lobbyists, journalists, and even Congress itself all use GovTrack.
Here’s what GovTrack looks like today:
It is so important to understand how our government works to be good citizens and effective advocates for issues that matter to us, and GovTrack can get you up to speed on bills in Congress that matter to you. It can put you in touch with your representative and arm you with facts before the next election.
But I want GovTrack to do more, and to do that I need your help.
Launching GovTrack Insider
Today GovTrack is fully automated. There’s no staff here. All of the information on the site is collected automatically from the official record. But the official record can’t tell us everything we want to know about what’s going on in Congress.
With your help I will hire a full time researcher to add more information about bills to GovTrack. The researcher will report on the political context behind legislation and will tell us what bills really mean.
As a proof of concept, earlier this summer I hired Ben, GovTrack’s first intern, to dig deeper into the daily activities of Congress. Ben has been writing readable summaries of major legislation and writing a daily report on what Congress has been up to. You can see Ben’s work posted on GovTrack, on our new Medium page called GovTrack Insider, and if you’ve been a GovTrack user you may have already seen Ben’s summaries in your email updates.
Ben has posted reports on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA, related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership), education, the defense budget, and other topics, and he’s posted 20 daily reports and 54 bill summaries.
Users have told us this work is valuable, so Ben will keep writing for the rest of the summer. Then we’re going to need your help to continue this work.
Our goal is to raise $35,000 to continue posting bill summaries and writing GovTrack Insider for another six months. That will let us pay a full time researcher to write summaries on major legislation and post daily reports (when Congress is in session).
How we’ll use the funding
We’ll use the funding to pay the salary of a researcher for six months and related expenses, plus some of my time to train the researcher and edit the reports to maintain a high level of quality. The full budget is:
$21,150 Salary for the researcher for six months*
$2,887 Employment-related taxes
$3,032 Office space, expenses, contingency (e.g. rented desk)
$3,300 Some of my time over six months
$1,750 Time spent on rewards for backers
$2,881 Kickstarter fees
* GovTrack is currently too small to offer benefits. If we are able to grow our operations this would change.
Our stretch goal
If we can get to our stretch goal of $60,000, we’ll be able to hire a second researcher. With a second person on staff we’ll be able to explain not just bills, but every vote that Congress takes.
I launched GovTrack in 2004 and since then it has become the go-to place to research and track the U.S. Congress. It spurred a whole movement to use data and automation to make it easier for everyday Americans to keep tabs on their government.
GovTrack has been supported over the last ten years through advertising placed on the site. Unfortunately that does not bring in nearly enough money to hire a staff member, which is why I’ve come to Kickstarter.
If you’d like to see more summaries on GovTrack, please support our work to make Congress a more open and accountable institution!
I’ve been tracking Congress for more than a decade and know the ins and outs of Congress. But Congress is a complicated, political, and obscure institution. Finding out the true story behind legislation is never easy.