Montana’s congressional delegation first to post schedules online

Praise Earned from Government Watchdog Groups

HELENA (AP) – Montana’s congressional delegation has become the first in the nation to post their schedules on the Internet, earning praise from advocates of open government.

This week, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus started posting an online schedule detailing his meetings the prior day, following similar postings by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg. Tester was one of the first members of Congress to post his schedule on the Internet when he took office in January. Rehberg has been doing the same since June.

A government watchdog group that has been pushing all members of Congress to post their schedules says Montana is now leading the way on the issue.

“It’s a tribute to Senator Tester. He is a populist, and he seized on this idea early,” said Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation.

The Washington, D.C.-based group has said the issue is about accountability, knowing who congressional representatives met with on a given day as opposed to obtaining schedules in advance.

Baucus, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, started posting his schedule Tuesday. His spokesman said it took longer to work out a plan due to the senator’s many obligations as committee chair.

“Max thinks that providing this schedule is an important way for Montana to keep up with it and for Montanans to know what Max is doing for them,” said spokesman Barrett Kaiser. “It is great that Montana is setting an example across the nation.”

The issue has also trickled down to statewide officeholders.

Republican Secretary of State Brad Johnson announced Friday that he will start posting his schedule on the Internet next week. He also said he will make archives of the schedule available going back to the start of the year.

Miller with the Sunlight Foundation said Johnson was the first state-level official she knows of to follow the congressional mold.

“We had not seen this pop up at the state level before,” she said.

Johnson said all his fellow statewide officeholders, including Gov. Brian Schweitzer, should follow the example set by the state’s congressional delegation.

“I’m glad we are kind of on the cutting edge,” Johnson said. “We ought to be leading by example.”

Schweitzer’s office said reporters are sent advance copies of the governor’s schedule, which is available to those who ask.

“We’re happy to let folks know what he is doing if they would like to stop by,” said spokeswoman Sarah Elliott, adding the governor has advocated openness in his office by allowing anyone to attend his meetings.

Attorney General Mike McGrath said his past schedules are available for anyone who requests them.

“I think it’s all public record, all public documents. To my knowledge nobody has asked for it,” McGrath said.

The Sunlight Foundation says that only eight members of Congress, including Tester, Baucus and Rehberg, are posting the online schedules.

Tester made schedules an issue in his 2006 campaign against Republican Sen. Conrad Burns as part of an ethics pledge.

“He never did this to force others into doing the same thing,” said spokesman Matt McKenna. “He did this because he believes government should be transparent and the folks that elected him should be able to know what he is up to everyday.”

————

On the Net:

http://tester.senate.gov/

http://baucus.senate.gov

http://www.house.gov/rehberg/

http://www.sos.state.mt.us/

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.
Summary
Date: 09/21/2007 07:43 PM
Slug: BC-MT–Officeholders-Schedules
Headline: Montana’s congressional delegation first to post schedules online
Byline: By MATT GOURAS
Byline Title: Associated Press Writer
Copyright Holder: AP
Priority: r (4)
With Photo:
Dateline: HELENA, Mont.
Editors’ Note:
Word Count: 603
File Name (Transref): M0093
Editorial Type:
AP Category: n
Format: bx

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) _ Montana’s congressional delegation has become the first in the nation to post their schedules on the Internet, earning praise from advocates of open government. This week, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus started posting an online schedule detailing his meetings the prior day, following similar postings by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg. Tester was one of the first members of Congress to post his schedule on the Internet when he took office in January. Rehberg has been doing the same since June. A government watchdog group that has been pushing all members of Congress to post their schedules says Montana is now leading the way on the issue. “It’s a tribute to Senator Tester. He is a populist, and he seized on this idea early,” said Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. The Washington, D.C.-based group has said the issue is about accountability, knowing who congressional representatives met with on a given day as opposed to obtaining schedules in advance. Baucus, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, started posting his schedule Tuesday. His spokesman said it took longer to work out a plan due to the senator’s many obligations as committee chair. “Max thinks that providing this schedule is an important way for Montana to keep up with it and for Montanans to know what Max is doing for them,” said spokesman Barrett Kaiser. “It is great that Montana is setting an example across the nation.” The issue has also trickled down to statewide officeholders. Republican Secretary of State Brad Johnson announced Friday that he will start posting his schedule on the Internet next week. He also said he will make archives of the schedule available going back to the start of the year. Miller with the Sunlight Foundation said Johnson was the first state-level official she knows of to follow the congressional mold. “We had not seen this pop up at the state level before,” she said. Johnson said all his fellow statewide officeholders, including Gov. Brian Schweitzer, should follow the example set by the state’s congressional delegation. “I’m glad we are kind of on the cutting edge,” Johnson said. “We ought to be leading by example.” Schweitzer’s office said reporters are sent advance copies of the governor’s schedule, which is available to those who ask. “We’re happy to let folks know what he is doing if they would like to stop by,” said spokeswoman Sarah Elliott, adding the governor has advocated openness in his office by allowing anyone to attend his meetings. Attorney General Mike McGrath said his past schedules are available for anyone who requests them. “I think it’s all public record, all public documents. To my knowledge nobody has asked for it,” McGrath said. The Sunlight Foundation says that only eight members of Congress, including Tester, Baucus and Rehberg, are posting the online schedules. Tester made schedules an issue in his 2006 campaign against Republican Sen. Conrad Burns as part of an ethics pledge. “He never did this to force others into doing the same thing,” said spokesman Matt McKenna. “He did this because he believes government should be transparent and the folks that elected him should be able to know what he is up to everyday.”