The Obama administration dreamed that its health insurance exchanges--the websites that were supposed to make it easy to buy health insurance--would function as smoothly as online consumer sites like Expedia or Amazon.com. But as head-scratching continues about how a famously web-savvy administration could have flubbed its Internet homework so badly, an examination by the Sunlight Foundation shows the administration turned the task of building its futuristic new health care technology planning and programming over to legacy contractors with deep political pockets.
Visit the Reporting Group blog to read more about the 47 contractors working on the ACA. Also read our analysis on how HealthCare.gov likely cost $70 million to build.
Elsewhere in the Sunlight network
- We're moving Sunlight Reporting Group
- IRS takes aim at $300 million campaign influence industry Sunlight Reporting Group
- Happy Thankgiving! How does campaign cash affect the food on your plate? Sunlight Reporting Group
- Christie brings his clout, fundraising chops to new role as RGA head Sunlight Reporting Group
- Stockman campaign goes for campaign finance hat trick Sunlight Reporting Group
The Sunlight Foundation has filed a new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for enterprise data inventories and data inventory schedules submitted by all agencies in response to OMB’s “Open Data Policy - Managing Information as an Asset.” While the Obama Administration has touted its open data requirements as a big development for transparency, without seeing the entire enterprise data inventories, it is impossible for the public to know what data is being collected and stored by the government and to debate whether or not that data should be made public.
House members need a low-cost way to get elected, that also increases their bargaining power to deal with special interests. We can achieve this today, through the Open Source Candidate pledge and ProxiCast voting technology.
The Last Campaign Pledge A Candidate Has to Make: Open Source Candidate Pledge
At Open Source Candidate, we created a pledge to help bring more transparency into the voting process by ensuring that the public is able to see how and when a representative votes -- as he/she votes. Within the sample text in the pledge is proposed language such as:
“If elected, I will cast each vote in Congress by a real-time poll of my constituents; And only override after posting a public explanation.”
The pledge is about transparency and doesn’t bind the voting power of the House member. The scope is merely one specific power (voting) of a Legislator (in a non-binding way), in half of Congress (House) in a third of the branches of government (Legislative).
- The House Committee on Administration considered the Government Printing Office at a hearing this week. In addition to hearing that the GPO wants to change its name, the committee considered the organizations business practices and level of public engagement. (CREW)
- Elizabeth Warren is pushing the CEOs of America's largest banks to be more forthcoming about the money that they spread around to Washington think tanks. These donations are currently shrouded in darkness and may effect the work produced by think tanks and distributed to policy makers, politicians, and the public. (Reuters)
- An open data initiative is underway in Oman. The initiative encourages agencies to open their data archives to the public and included a Big Open Data Idea contest, encouraging citizens to brainstorm ways that public data can be utilized. (Times of Oman)
- The UK is losing its official Digital Champion. Martha Lane Fox, who has served in the role for three years, is moving on from the job that tasked her with promoting digital inclusion and e-government initiatives across the British government. (Future Gov)
- KuvakaZim just launched a parliamentary monitoring system covering Zimbabwe using mySociety's Pombola platform. As internet and mobile penetration grows in Africa, opportunities for citizens to engage with and monitor their governments should grow. (My Society)
State and Local News
- A group is planning to walk across the State of New Hampshire to try to push eventual presidential candidates to answer the question, "what are YOU going to do to end corruption in Washington?" (#NHRebellion)
- Patriot Majority, a union-backed liberal "nonprofit", spent more than $23 million on politics last year. Despite touting themselves as a grassroots group, most of their money came from large donations, including one $6 million gift. (Public Integrity)
- Agencies are starting to tout their efforts to comply with President Obama's open data Executive Order. The Department of Transportation has more than 2,000 data sets on data.gov, although they didn't all translate to the agency's compliance with Project Open Data. (Executive Gov)
- Want to learn more about the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative? Check out this podcast detailing the initiative, some of the challenges it faces, and POGO's involvement in it. (POGO)
- As part of efforts to combat financial crimes in their country, France recently launched a new Central Office Against Corruption, Financial and Fiscal Offenses. (The FCPA Blog)
State and Local News
- A state lawmaker in Ohio is pushing a new initiative designed to make it easier for citizens to find and understand information about state and local government. The DataOhio Initiative is a series of bills that promote open standards in state and local data. (ThisWeek Ohio)
- Recent revelations suggest that the city of Ottawa waffled between an open data competition and a traditional contractor to build their new smart phone traffic app. They eventually chose the contractor, who charged $95,000 for a disappointing product. (Tech President)
On Thursday November 21st, Montgomery County, Maryland hosted an Open Data Town Hall to solicit feedback from citizens about what data they would like to see prioritized for release online under Montgomery County’s open data law. The Sunlight Foundation’s Alisha Green and Rebecca Williams of the Sunlight Municipal Policy team and Sunlight Labs’ Developers Jeremy Carbaugh and Kaitlin Devine (many of whom are Montgomery County residents) were in attendance to praise Montgomery County for their unique public participation route to prioritizing open data release and most importantly to: chat data.
Scout, the Sunlight Foundation's government search and alert system, is now delivering daily alerts on federal court opinions. Court opinions will be included by default — along with regulations, legislation, speeches, and reports — for any alert based on search terms.
If you've already set up alerts on Scout for search terms, and your alert ranges across all of our data types, you don't need to do anything: we've updated existing general search alerts to include opinions too.
We're able to do this because of the fantastic data and services offered by CourtListener. In November, the Free Law Project announced CourtListener's new API for court opinions. CourtListener is a search engine and data provider for a staggeringly large collection of millions of opinions across hundreds of jursidictions at the federal and state level. The Free Law Project is a California-based non-profit that operates CourtListener, and is run by Michael Lissner and Brian Carver.
While CourtListener has offered its data in bulk to the public for some time, the addition of an API meant that we could integrate Scout directly with CourtListener, without having to manage a gigantic database of court opinions ourselves. CourtListener's support of advanced search queries and highlighted search result snippets means we could plug it into Scout without needing to add any additional features. While bulk data is always a top priority, an API greatly lowered the barrier to reuse CourtListener's court opinions.
For the moment, we're limiting results to federal appellate and special courts, but we'll expand this over time. When we do, CourtListener's simple API will make this very straightforward for us.
Thanks to the Free Law Project for support during the integration process, and for providing such an outstanding national resource.
Today, the Knight Foundation, along with the data analytics firm Quid, released a fascinating analysis analyzing the financial investment in nonprofits and for-profit organizations that create civic technology apps and platforms through technology. If you include many of the new P2P platforms such as AirBnB and the like (which are private businesses not primarily focused on promoting civic outcomes), there has been a whopping $430 million invested in civic technology, including open government organizations. (Full disclosure, the Sunlight Foundation has received several grants from the Knight Foundation.) It is concerning that the bulk of venture capital and other non-philanthropic investment in civic technology goes toward companies whose primary goals are not to empower citizens in democratic engagement nor to foster government openness and accountability.
The big picture presented by Knight and Quid shows that there is momentum in growing an echelon of financial investors to buttress the nascent civic start-up movement. This peek behind the curtain of the philanthropic and commercial investment world is welcome transparency and very helpful analysis.
- The Office of Congressional Ethics is five years old and, despite heavy criticism from both sides of the aisle, doesn't appear to be going anywhere. Click the link for more detail, but be prepared for the ad that is set to play automatically at an annoyingly high volume. (The Hill)
- Campaign finance reform group United Republic did some polling and found that support for campaign finance reform, already strong, jumps to over 70 percent when changes to the legal structure are pitched as "anti-corruption laws". (Public Integrity)
- Today in things that make you go "Did he really just say that?" Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told an interviewer for the New Republic that he offered to go easy on Scott Brown (R-MA) in the 2012 election in exchange for a "yes" vote from Brown on the DISCLOSE Act. Brown, apparently, said no and the bill eventually went down to a slim defeat. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren knocked Brown from the seat in 2012. Could Chuck have stopped her if he'd tried? Your guess is as good as mine. ( Washington Post)
- Transparency International released their 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index yesterday. The report, which tracks how corrupt countries are perceived to be, shows widespread belief that countries are super corrupt, with more than two-thirds scoring less than 50 out of 100 possible points. (Tech President)
- Amsterdam, Barcelona, and San Francisco are teaming up on a new data sharing platform, called Cityzenith 5D Smart City. The cities are hoping to pool resources and share best practices. (Future Gov)
State and Local News
- New York State's Moreland Commission issued their report into the "pay-to-play" political culture in the state on Monday night. The report, commissioned by Governor Andrew Cuomo, focuses mainly on problems in the legislature and recommends a host of changes, many suggested by good government groups. (NY Daily News)
- A brief review of "The Foundation for an Open Source City," that looks at the topic through the lens of the author's experiences in Raleigh, North Carolina. (govfresh)
In a legislative meeting today, DC council members unanimously approved a bill that moves campaign finance in the District toward greater transparency. The legislation requires electronic filing of campaign finance information and the publication of that information online within 24 hours -- language that Sunlight's local team recommended in the bill's drafting process.
Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who moved the bill through Council, thanked Sunlight for our role in this win for transparency:
Thanks also to the @SunFoundation for their input on transparency reforms that are cornerstone of this DC campaign finance reform— Kenyan R. McDuffie (@CM_McDuffie) December 3, 2013
The first major deadline for agency compliance with President Obama's open data Executive Order arrived this past Saturday. Agencies were required to, among other things, provide the Office of Management and Budget with an "Enterprise Data Inventory" and release a list of all their public data via a /data page on their websites.
We had hopes that some agencies might choose to publicly release their entire Enterprise Data Inventories, providing a full picture of their data holdings. Unfortunately, so far, that does not seem to have happened. Until the full inventories are available, the public will still be stuck in the dark, not knowing what we don’t know about government data holdings.
Nonetheless, most cabinet level agencies, as well as a number of independent agencies that were not required to comply, have taken steps to publicly fulfill the other aspects of the Executive Order. Levels of compliance have been varied, but we will try to highlight some of the worst and best examples below.