Sunlight Foundation to Roll Out a Unified API

The Sunlight Foundation has announced that it is rolling out new websites, mobile applications, a unified API and an enhanced data explorer tool in the coming months. The Sunlight Foundation is also in the process of developing two major platforms, one that focuses on the federal government and one that focuses on state governments.

The Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes transparency in government, is organizing and consolidating its data under two flagship platforms so that both federal and state government data will be comprehensive and easier to use. Building two platforms also makes it possible to build a single, unified Sunlight API that will allow programmatic access to all of Sunlight's data.


Capitol Words is a tool that lets users explore and compare words used most frequently by members of Congress.

ProgrammableWeb reached out to James Turk, director of Sunlight Labs, who provided some additional information about the flagship platforms in development and the upcoming unified Sunlight API. Turk explained that the Web development team is building on Sunlight's existing technical stack, which is largely Python and Django. He also said that the team is "evaluating technical options for pieces yet to be built."

When it comes to the existing Sunlight APIs, the organization’s ultimate goal is to replace all of them with a single, unified API. "There will be one base URL with many endpoints," said Turk. "Our aim is to eventually replace all of those APIs, but our immediate focus is on Open States, Influence Explorer and Congress." He also said that "the API will use simple key-based authorization. Users will be able to use their existing Sunlight API keys."

Quite a few APIs that provide programmatic access to Sunlight Foundation projects are available:

  • Capitol Words API – This provides access to word-frequency data, which is used in the Capitol Words project and Scout.
  • Congress API v3 – This is a live API that provides information for legislators, bills, votes, real-time notice of hearings, floor activity and more.
  • Docket Wrench API – This provides access to metadata for documents, dockets and agencies. It also provides access to clustering and text analysis tools featured in Docket Wrench.
  • Influence Explorer API – This provides programmatic access to campaign contributions and lobbying records.
  • Open States API – This provides access to legislator, bill and activity information for all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico.
  • Political Party Time API – This provides access to the raw data created by the Sunlight Foundation based on fundraising invitations collected in Party Time.
  • Real-Time Federal Campaign Finance API – This API provides "up-to-the-minute" campaign finance information. This includes PACs, federal candidates and other groups that file electronic documents with the Federal Election Commission.

In addition to a unified Sunlight API, an enhanced data explorer tool is set to be launched later this year. The new data explorer tool will allow users to perform complex queries across data sets. "The initial concept is simply to provide researchers and interested parties easy access to tabular data," Turk said.

The Sunlight Foundation is working hard on building the upcoming new websites, mobile applications, unified API and enhanced data explorer, all of which are planned to be released later in 2015.

"This new approach stems from our desire as an organization to put what we've learned over the last nine years to work to create tools that will be easier to use and accessible to more people," Christopher Gates, president of the Sunlight Foundation, told ProgrammableWeb.

For more information about the Sunlight Foundation and its projects, visit

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