Bypassing the Gatekeepers of Congress *Without Their Permission*

The Internet “allows awesome ideas to win because people like them, not because some gatekeeper said so.” — Alexis Ohanian, Without Their Permission.

On Reddit a wild sketcher can become a star, at a special ed teacher can become a life changing philanthropist, and through Tumblr an unemployed recent college grad can hijack a national debate. The most powerful platforms across the Internet are those that cede control to the people and dismiss the notion of gatekeepers. As the web is democratizing nearly every aspect of our society from angel investing to pop culture, isn’t it ironic that the reins of democracy itself remain firmly in the hands of old institutionalists? After reading Without Their Permission I realized that I have already been designing Capitol Bells as a platform that helps everyone circumvent the gatekeepers of politics. I think that’s pretty exciting.

Two weeks ago I began the next phase of Capitol Bells — “Motions” — with major help from Brian Painter, a bad ass developer from South Carolina. Soon, Capitol Bells will let anyone lead legislative lobbying campaigns, personally gauge their representatives’ performance based on real congressional actions (not hype!), and even become political leaders and declare candidacy in their own communities — all without anyone’s permission. By combing social networking with user voting on bills, Capitol Bells has the potential to bypass every type of political gatekeeper: party leaders, media pundits, campaign contributors, lobbyists, you name it.

The SOPA protest was a huge inspiration for me as a cynical congressional staffer to see that Congress really is accountable to the public. I want to witness that happen again and again by facilitating a system of constant public feedback and accountability. Congress’s first job is to work for us. I look forward to demonstrating how Capitol Bells says no to political gatekeepers and yes to winning ideas from you and me.