The Sunlight Foundation has announced the launch of a new influence-tracking website that uncovers trends in the federal rulemaking process.
Known as "Docket Wrench," the website offers a searchable visualization tool that explores the federal rulemaking system, monitoring comments from 10,000 organizations across 300 federal agencies, according to a press release issued Jan. 31 by the Sunlight Foundation.
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According to the Sunlight Foundation, the rulemaking process starts after Congress passes a bill and the president signs it into law. Docket Wrench is a useful, online tool to show how federal agencies are fine-tuning public policy — and the groups trying to influence the regulatory process, While these
proposed rules and public comments are posted on Regulations.gov, Docket Wrench goes a step further and allows anyone to see who is commenting and if there are any similarities among the proposals.
“Influence doesn’t stop at K Street," says Tom Lee, Sunlight Labs director. "Every day, corporations, interest groups and advocates submit thousands of comments to proposed regulations posted by the U.S. government. While some public affairs activities, like lobbying and campaign contributions, are extensively researched, influence on the regulatory process has, until now, gone largely unexplored.”
Every rulemaking docket has its own page on the site, Sunlight Foundation officials note. There you can get a graphical overview of the docket, drill down into the rules and notices it contains and read the comments on those rules.
Sunlight Labs, the in-house technical department of Sunlight, developed the visualization tool. Once you select a proposed rule, the tool displays similar comments within a rulemaking docket to identify commonly used comment language, and to catch form letter writers in the act.