Web slinger: Waldo's new site takes aim at federal corruption
When it comes to building websites that promote government transparency, Waldo Jaquith has built a strong reputation– and it'll likely only be bolstered by the March 8 launch of www.ethics.gov, a website that Jaquith spent the last four months building, working several days a week inside the White House.
"The mission came from a campaign promise made by Obama," Jaquith explains, "to provide a single location where people could enter the name of a person, agency, or business and pull up federal ethics records pertaining to them."
When it came time to fulfill that promise, the White House didn't have to look far to find Jaquith, a programmer who previously created Richmond Sunlight, a website that makes sense of the General Assembly. In June, he was invited to the White House as a "Champion of Change" for his work on that site, and when he arrived in D.C. to receive the award, that's when he got the job offer.
"They offered me a position as 'entrepreneur in residence'," says Jaquith, who says he loved the idea– but not the move to D.C. it might have entailed. He turned it down, and another offer followed right away– this one to build the ethics website Obama had promised voters.
Despite working 12-hour days with a newborn child at home, Jaquith– who in 2011 also received a $165,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to build a website to help citizens understand the Virginia state code– says he enjoyed the experience of working alongside some high level players in the Obama administration including United States Chief Information Officer Steve VanRoekel and the recently resigned Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra.
"This is the stuff I do for fun: make information more accessible, valuable and interesting," he says, noting that the public now has a tool to uncover relationships and money exchanges between the federal government and the private sector that might be unethical.
"There could be scandals lurking in there," says Jaquith. "Now it's up to individuals to use this data to connect those dots."Read more on: waldo jaquith