As they say "sunshine is the best disinfectant", and if government eventually opens up all it's information and data for us to reliably expose what they're doing... that'd be excellent. Until then, there are some terrific websites out there for this purpose:
- opencongress.org & govtrack.us
These sites let you follow representatives, bills, and even vote 'aye' or 'nay' on them. I used them to create an RSS feed tracking all my local representatives votes (Boxer, Feinstein, Matsui, Herger, Lungren, Thompson, McClintock) which I follow in my Google Reader.
Personally, I like opencongress best. This site provides tools, such as one which lets you compare representatives by voting similarity... great for doing a Ron Paul litmus test!
- sunlightlabs.com & sunlightfoundation.com --> opensecrets.org & maplight.org
Sunlight Labs & Sunlight Foundation aggregate information on lobbying and campaign money, organizing and publishing it for use by sites like OpenSecrets and MapLight.
The picture painted by these sites are very telling. For example, you see how Doris Matsui is almost entirely funded by unions and lawyers outside her district. You can also see that lobbying money influence been exploding in Washington, and that health industry is one of the biggest spenders. Hmmm... and the healthcare industry is messed up because it's unregulated? I think not. It's one of the most heavily regulated, funded, and meddled industries that exist. Reduce government programs and regulations, and costs will drop radically. (Ah, but healthcare reform... that is another blog post)