One of the project areas I'm hoping that some of my students in Mixing and Remixing Information 2009 (MRI 2009) course will take up is promoting government accountability and transparency in the new Obama era. (Interestingly enough, John Musser wrote last week on ProgrammableWeb about the Sunlight Labs Mashup Contest — something I'll definitely have to mention to the class in January.)
This morning, while reading Banks Got Bailout; Are They Making More Loans? : NPR, I came across a quote from United States Senator Richard Shelby (R, Alabama) that made me wonder what his voting record has been on a number of recent bills.My first thought was whether anyone has fed this data to freebase — a quick look (Richard Shelby facts – Freebase) seems that no, not yet, anyhow.
My next thought was to turn to the Sunlight Foundation projects. It turns out that OpenCongress was able to list the voting record for Richard Shelby, including Nay on the bank bailout bill (H.R.1424 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008).
Is it possible to retrieve this type of voting data with an API? Yes, with a bit of digging based on the following pointer at GovTrack: Source Code, Data, and APIs
Vote Database API: Get voting records in XML, too. To get an overall list, see the XML download link at the top of the votes page. To include the votes of members of Congress, first find the member, then follow the link to the votes database, and then grab the XML download link.)
I found an XML feed of Shelby's voting record linked off GovTrack: Sen. Richard Shelby [R-AL]'s Voting Record.
Clearly there's a lot more that we can do with this data — stuff to explore in class.