This afternoon I attended a panel discussion at The Heritage Foundation about the role of bloggers in pushing for Congress to pass the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006.
The law, sponsored by freshmen senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) provides for an online database of federal appropriations. The bill passed through Congress with relative ease, but had been blocked for a bit by long-time pork barrel spending champions Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
Among the panelists was veteran Cox Newspapers Washington reporter Rebecca Carr who marveled that she "couldn't get over how effective" the coalition of left- and right-wing bloggers had been in providing the political pressure and alternative media coverage of the legislation's progress.
Heritage's Mark Tapscott was not as surprised, pointing out that blogs bring to bear "the wisdom of crowds" to news gathering and political activism.
The panelists generally felt that bloggers will have a greater role to play in moving the country's political debate and in passing open-government laws, although they seemed to agree that circumstances that surrounded Coburn-Obama were, in the words of panelist N.Z. Bear a "perfect storm" bringing together conservatives aiming to limit government with liberals aiming to prove a culture of corruption in the pork-barrel spending in the Republican majority Congress.
You can watch the video online at Heritage's Web site. Click on the video link entitled "Government 2.0: How Bloggers Claimed Their First Major Policy Victory."