This week has been filled with news about the influence industry. From high profile staffers moving through the revolving door, to Supreme Court consideration of another attempt to deregulate campaign finance, to outrage over the new Obama affiliated group, political influence is pervasive. Luckily, there are always groups thinking about ways to shed light on this influence. At a recent Advisory Committee on Transparency event three groups presented ideas to shed light on lobbyists and nonprofit groups that attempt to influence the political process.
This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a unique case revolving around how states deal with people and businesses from outside their borders when responding to Freedom of Information requests. The case tackles some of the different ways that each individual state administers their Freedom of Information Act, but it got me thinking about ways the the Federal level FOIA could be improved. Luckily, we heard three compelling presentations on this very topic at the most recent Advisory Committee on Transparency event. The talks dealt with limiting and defining exemptions as well as proactively releasing more information without waiting for a FOI request to be made. Click read more to see the videos!
On January 30th the House of Representatives' Bulk Data Task Force held its second public meeting to outline its efforts and hear from interested members of the public. Yesterday, Daniel Schuman recapped the meeting and discussed some of the many excellent steps the task force has taken, and is planning to take, to make House operations more open.
Recently, the House has shown a deep commitment to making its operations open and accessible to the citizens that it serves. But, there can always be room for improvement. At the recent Advisory Committee on Transparency event three speakers presented ideas that, they argued, would improve congressional operations and make the Legislative branch more effective and transparent.
Tonight, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union Address to Congress. He is expected to urge the Legislative branch to take action on guns, immigration, climate change and a laundry list of other issues. In order to make progress on the major questions of the day, the President will have to negotiate and compromise with Congress. But, that doesn't mean he can't make progress through other means.
A few weeks ago, the Advisory Committee on Transparency heard three ideas that President Obama could consider implementing right away to make the Executive branch more open and transparent. Read on for the videos.
Last month Daniel Schuman shared five ideas that members of Congress can implement to make their offices more open and transparent. A few weeks later the Advisory Committee on Transparency heard two more ways that Representatives and Senators could show their commitment to transparency without passing legislation or changing broader policies.
Lorelei Kelly, the Smart Congress Pilot Lead at the New America Foundation's Open Technology Institute, and Josh Tauberer, who runs GovTrack.US, argued that members of Congress should hire staff specifically dedicated to working on innovative projects and open government issues.
Lorelei Kelly argued that members of Congress should hire, what she dubbed, "Technology Mashup Fellows" to work in their district offices and find expertise, innovation, and perspective from outside of the Beltway.
Turning his attention to Washington, Josh Tauberer encouraged members to consider hiring a Transparency Director. The director could focus on open government policy and help coordinate new initiatives to make member office operations more transparent.
You can view all of the presentations from the event here. The Advisory Committee on Transparency brings groups and individuals together to discuss transparency issues and share ideas. The Advisory Committee and the Sunlight Foundation do not necessarily endorse the ideas presented in these videos.
The White House finally agreed to allow lawmakers (not the public) to see the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel memo authorizing the use of drone strikes on civilians, the New York Times reports, but as a Sunlight analysis has shown, the administration is still withholding 37% of these crucially important legal opinions from public view (that were issued from inauguration in 2009 until March 2012).
The administration is even holding on to much older opinions. 39% of OLC opinions issued between 1998 and 2012 are still being withheld from online publication, accounting for 201 of the 509 opinions issued during that time, our August 2012 analysis found.
Secret law and good governance do not mix. While we recognize that there occasionally may be reasons that countenance against their full release, we recommend the following:
- The Office of Legal Counsel should refresh its website to indicate how many memos are issued each year. It should adopt the default of releasing all memos, not just the ones it deems “significant” (as such a distinction invites abuse and mistrust), and should do so prospectively and retrospectively.
- Where OLC cannot release an opinion in its entirety, it should release versions that are redacted as lightly as possible.
- At a minimum, the titles of opinions should be released, and if even that raises insurmountable issues, descriptions of memos should be available in their stead.
- Finally, the administration should consider bringing in a trusted reviewer from outside the executive branch who can credibly (and publicly) make recommendations about the release of additional opinions.
At last Monday's Advisory Committee on Transparency event, 16 lightning talks were given on transparency-related topics like FOIA, lobbying reform, and opening up congress. The three-minute presentations distilled some of the best thinking by advocates and activists on what the government could do right now to be more open. We're pleased to make those videos available to you.
On Monday, Princeton's Steve Schultze argued for the right of all Americans to access federal court records online at no charge. He made these remarks not only because he believes it is fundamental to a democracy that the people know what their government is doing, but also because he came to understand that his friend Aaron Swartz was harassed by the government for his efforts to ensure that all Americans can exercise this right.
As Steve explains, all federal court records are available online -- behind a paywall, on court-run PACER -- that unlawfully overcharges the public for access and subverts the reason and rationale for its existence. He believes court records should be free for the public to access.
Steve is looking for Congress to act by considering this legislation, which provides for free and open access to court records. He is looking for bill sponsors, and asks that you call your elected representatives.
Steve gave this talk as part of a series of 3-minute lightning talks on transparency hosted on Capitol Hill on Monday by the Advisory Committee on Transparency, a project of the Sunlight Foundation that brings together organizations from across the political spectrum that believe in a more open government.
Update: link to Reddit where a conversation on this is emerging.
Additional Update: To clarify that Steve is asking for comments on the legislation and legislative action, and that the Sunlight Foundation is sharing video of speakers from its recent ACT event without necessarily endorsing their views.
We are excited to announce the exciting lineup of experts and advocates from across the political spectrum that will be speaking at "Kick-starting the 113th Congress," the next Advisory Committee on Transparency event. The sixteen speakers will each have 3 minutes to present their actionable ideas to make government more transparent.
The lineup includes representatives of the Cato Institute, the Center for Effective Government, the Center for Responsive Politics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Data Transparency Coalition, GovTrack.us, Judicial Watch, the New America Foundation, OpenTheGovernment.org, Princeton University, Robinson & Yu LLP, the Sunlight Foundation, the Sunshine in Government Initiative, and the Union of Concerned Scientists.
The event will be held on Monday, January 28th in room 2203 of the Rayburn House Office Building and start at 2:00 pm. Please RSVP to http://snlg.ht/ACTCongress
Read more for a full list of speakers.
Looking for ideas to make government more transparent and accountable? Join the The Advisory Committee on Transparency on January 28th for a series of short presentations on what Congress could do right now to make government more transparent.
The January 28th event, entitled "Kick-starting the 113th Congress", will feature an exciting array of experts and advocates from across the political spectrum. They will each have 3 minutes to present concrete, actionable proposals to open up the government.
The presentations will take place on Capitol Hill, in the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2203. After the dozen-or-so lightning talks, there will be an opportunity to mingle and talk with the presenters.
Please RSVP to snlg.ht/ACTCongress.