Sunlight's policy team prepares testimony, briefings, and presentations that elucidate our policy proposals.
Policy Counsel Daniel Schuman submitted comments to the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch on budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2014.
Policy Counsel Daniel Schuman submitted comments to the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch on budget priorities for Fiscal Year 2014.
He outlined a number of areas for the committee to consider, urging them to improve public access to legislative data, fully fund the Office of Congressional Ethics, publish Congressional Research Service reports publicly online, publish House Expenditure Reports online in a data-friendly format, publish House support office and support agency reports online, publish the Constitution Annotated online, restore funding for committee and personal office staff and legislative support agencies, and more.
On March 13, 2013 Daniel Schuman testified before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He outlined the state of transparency in the Federal government and legislature and identified specific actions that could lead to greater openness.
He urged Congress to pass several important pieces of legislation including the DATA Act, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, the Presidential Library Donation Reform Act, and amendments to the Federal Advisory Committee Act. He also suggested that the committee should explore legislation relating to FOIA, the Open Government Directive, access to Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinions, and more.
A talk delivered at an American Council for Technology conference on February 14, 2013, on the importance of creating a government-wide policy to audit and index the information it holds.
Available in PDF here.
When it comes to Open Data Policies, today is Groundhog Day. We've come a long way since the Paperwork Reduction Act, first passed in 1980, which called on each agency to ensure that the public has timely and equitable access to the agency's public information; and things have changed since OMB's Circular A-130, first issued in 1985, which calls for the protection of the public's right of access to government information. We now have websites, bulk downloads, APIs, and a shiny new Digital Government Strategy. But when it comes to how agencies share access to the information they hold, we're barely halfway through the movie.
The United States Senate is a creature of its rules. Through its standing rules, laws and resolutions, precedents, and the consent of its members, the upper chamber carefully controls how legislation can be promulgated and debate can take place.
Unlike the House of Representatives, which must vote on its rules every Congress, the Senate rarely reconsiders its standing rules in their entirety. An opportunity may arise, however, with the current debate over changing how the filibuster works. Here are Sunlight's major recommendations for updating the Senate's rules.
The Sunlight Foundation, along with the Institute for Policy Innovation, OpenTheGovernment.org, Public Citizen and U.S. Public Interest Research Groups sent a letter to President Obama, Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, Representative Boehner and Representative Pelosi urging them to ensure that a minimal standard of transparency apply to the fiscal cliff negotiations.
Congress runs on rules. With the upcoming changeover from the 112th to the 113th Congress, the House of Representatives will adopt new regulations that innervate every aspect of legislative life. The last time it did this, in 2010, the House set the stage for greater openness and transparency in the lower chamber. At that time, Sunlight issued a series of recommendations, some of which were adopted. The House of Representatives made significant progress toward ensuring the people's house belongs to the people, from the new transparency portal docs.house.gov to expanded video coverage of House proceedings to retaining the Office of Congressional Ethics.
In advance of the 113th Congress, we're issuing an updated set of transparency recommendations, each of which would mark a significant step towards increased transparency.
One of the foundations of democracy is a legislature that functions well. The ability to assess whether a legislature is functioning properly depends on the public's ability to see what it is doing. Observing what the U.S. Senate is doing, unfortunately, is a difficult task, and one that is unnecessarily hard. Have special interests become increasingly powerful in the Senate because the upper chamber has diminished its capacity to legislate? To evaluate this question, we gathered data about congressional staff numbers, pay, and retention from a number of difficult-to-access (and often non-public) sources.
While the U.S. Senate is often seen as the wiser and more seasoned counterpart to the House, we believe it is suffering from the same affliction that has robbed the lower chamber of some of its ability to engage in reasoned decision making, placing it at the mercy of special interests. Over the past thirty years, the Senate weakened its institutional knowledge base and diminished its capacity to understand current events through a dramatic reduction of one of its most valuable resources: experienced staff.
At a fundamental level, congressional oversight is an expression of the American people's collaborative effort to govern themselves. Expressions of popular sovereignty are usually evaluated through the lens of legislation, i.e. where Congress directs the government (the executive branch) to take action. However, it is equally important to analyze whether the undertaken governmental actions are what Congress intended and the American people want.
There are many metrics to evaluate executive branch activities, including whether the government is accurately carrying out its instructions, whether it's doing so in a way that is faithful to what Congress intended, whether it is acting expeditiously, and whether the outcomes are achieving the desired ends. At Sunlight, we have a particular interest in government transparency, and this blogpost outlines some methods Congress can employ to make the executive branch more transparent, as well as how the fruits of Congressional oversight efforts can be made more readily available to the American people.
The following is a report on improving public access to legislative information. It (PDF, DOC, ODT) is the result of a collaborative effort that was prompted by the House Leadership's recent statement endorsing bulk access and the questions raised in a committee report accompanying the House Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill.
The co-authors of the report are Daniel Schuman (Sunlight Foundation), Tom Bruce (Cornell University's Legal Information Institute), Josh Tauberer (GovTrack.us), Eric Mill (Sunlight Foundation), and John Wonderlich (Sunlight Foundation).
The report is the latest in the ongoing, multi-year effort to improve how Congress releases legislative information to the public. It provides a roadmap to implementing bulk access to legislative information.