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.
On the occasion of Sunlight Week, our colleagues (and grantees) at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and OpenTheGovernment.org are releasing “Show Us The Data: Most Wanted Federal Documents” (PDF), a report based on the results of a survey funded by Sunlight and a Web-based collaborative tool created by Sunlight Labs. It cites documents and data that the federal government should make easier to find and to use, and recommends policy changes to make government more open.
Similar reports OTG and CDT have compiled in the past have shown national security concerns lead to too much secrecy. But not any more. Here’s a list of the top 10 most wanted government documents, according to the survey:
1. Public Access to All Congressional Research Service Reports 2. Information About the Use of TARP and Bailout Funds 3. Open and Accessible Federal Court Documents Through the PACER System 4. Current Contractor Projects 5. Court Settlements Involving Federal Agencies 6. Access to Comprehensive Information About Legislation and Congressional Actions via THOMAS or Public Access to Legislative Information Service 7. Online Access to Electronic Campaign Disclosures 8. Daily Schedules of the President and Cabinet Officials 9. Personal Financial Disclosures from Policymakers Across Government 10. State Medicaid Plans and Waivers
Those involved in writing the report include Patrice McDermott and Amy Fuller of OpenTheGovernment.org and Ari Schwartz, Jud Watkins, and Heather West of CDT. Sunlight’s own Bill Allison, Ali Felski, James Turk and Clay Johnson lent their hands in making it all happen, as well.