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Friday, January 26, 2007
Tester aims for Senate transparency online
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Whether it's a visit to the gym, a meeting with the founder of the Montana Meth Project, or an interview with Wolf Blitzer, staff for freshman Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, post his entire schedule online each workday -- a Senate first.

A spokesman says Tester pledged to do this early in his 2006 campaign out of a "desire for transparency." The Senator's schedule reflects meetings with visiting Montanans, committee colleagues, as well as the occasional lobbyist. The information "gives people an opportunity to see with whom [Tester] is meeting, and if they represent the opposite point of view, they can also request a meeting," said the spokesman.

The Sunlight Foundation -- a group working for greater government transparency -- has been pushing for more online disclosures of this kind. Last fall, the group offered members of the public up to $1000 cash if they could persuade a member of Congress or a candidate to post their schedule on the web. No sitting member said yes, but Sunlight paid out $22,750 after 93 candidates agreed. Only one actually got elected: Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York, whose schedule is now posted daily online.

Tester's efforts met some early hiccups: in the first few days before his Web site was fully operational his disclosures amounted to "a piece of paper taped to [his office] door" said his spokesman. The Senator's schedule is now available at the end of each business day at his Senate Web site.

-- CNN Internet Reporter Abbi Tatton
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