Docket Wrench Monitors Comments Across Federal Agencies
The Sunlight Foundation is a nonprofit organization with a mission to improve transparency and access to government information and programs through online tools. Some of the various tools on the Sunlight website include tolls to Track Influence, The Inner Workings of Congress, Track Legislation and Public Policy and various Mobile Apps. Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, sits on the board. And a couple weeks ago the Foundation announced a $2.1 million grant from Google to expand the organization’s work. Last Thursday the Foundation announced the launch of its latest influence-tracking tool, Docket Wrench. The new tool explores the federal rulemaking system and offers users a way to search and monitor comments from 10,000 organizations across 300 federal agencies including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
According to the press releases issued by the Sunlight Foundation Docket Wrench starts after Congress passes a bill and it is signed into law. The online tool is useful as it shows how federal agencies are “fine-tuning public policy” and, more interestingly, the groups trying to influence the regulatory process. All proposed rules and public comments are posted on www.Regulations.gov but the creators of Docket Wrench say the tool goes one step further as it tracks who is commenting and if similarities exist across comment made.
“Influence doesn’t stop at K Street. Every day, corporations, interest groups and advocates submit thousands of comments to proposed regulations posted by the U.S. government,” said Tom Lee, Sunlight Labs Director. “While some public affairs activities, like lobbying and campaign contributions, are extensively researched, influence on the regulatory process has, until now, gone largely unexplored.”
To explore Docket Wrench you search on an issue topic or organization to locate public comments, rules and notices or a federal docket. The site data refreshes daily. The search queries will help users see public comments from companies, individual, interest groups, and NGOs. The tool, among other things, can help monitor Stage 3 comments and other health IT federal initiatives. Check out the tool here.