Weekly Media Roundup – May 22, 2009

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Here are a few of the more interesting media mentions of Sunlight and our friends and
grantees from this week:

Thursday’s launch by the Obama administration of Data.gov, the repository for all the information the federal government collects, generated a number of good press mentions. Vivek Kundra, President Obama’s new Chief Information Officer, built and manages the Web site, which developers can access data to create applications for the Web and handheld devices. The Washington Post‘s Kim Hart wrote about the launch and quotes Ellen Miller, Sunlight’s executive director, saying it “demonstrates the acceptance of the notion that providing raw data is inherent to establishing trust in agencies.” Ellen said that the administration is redefining public information. “To be truly public, it needs to be available online. That’s a dramatic shift.” Hart also quotes Patrice McDermott, director of OpenTheGovernment.org, saying most federal agencies have not traditionally emphasized openness. “It’s not what Congress has told them to do in the past, and it’s not their culture. There’s going to have to be some real pressure on agencies to do this.” Hart also mentions Sunlight LabsApps for America 2 contest, and writes that it is modeled after the Apps for Democracy contest started by Kundra when he was the District of Columbia’s chief technology officer. Richard Waters at the Financial Times (subscription required) wrote about the launch and the contest, and quotes Ellen saying the launch represents “a sea-change in how government views its information.”

Wired‘s Kim Zetter and Wired Science‘s Alexis Madrigal both have articles about Data.gov that mention Sunlight and the Apps for America 2 contest. Madrigal also quotes Ellen, “Data.gov says that our information is your information,” and that “it represents this enormous change in attitude about what public means. It means it’s online. It’s means it’s available. I think it’s a dramatic breakthrough in the role of government.”

Federal News Radio‘s Jason Miller produced a story on Data.gov, and includes an mp3 of his interview with Kundra who mentions the Apps for America 2 contest. Chris Dorobek, co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, interviewed Ellen about the launch and posted the audio. Jon Gordon with American Public Media‘s “Future Tense” interviewed Clay Johnson, Sunlight Labs’ director, about Data.gov. Clay said the site represents “a good first step” by the administration.

Daphne Eviatar with The Washington Independent reported on the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) sending Congress a letter asking that it provide better supervision of the government’s $1.25 trillion mortgage-backed securities purchase program. POGO is concerned with potential conflicts of interest of having private fund managers advising the government on the program while also advising private clients on how to invest in similar assets. “(Potential) conflicts of interest could have a wide range of consequences, including financial losses for the American taxpayer, an unfair competitive advantage for the fund managers, and the continued erosion of public confidence in the government’s ability to stabilize the financial system,” POGO warns.

In a post on the blog of the Bill Moyers Journal, PBS journalists Bill Moyers and Michael Winship wrote about the influence being exerted by health industry in the debate over reforming national health policy. They cited Center for Responsive Politics data showing the health sector has spent more than $134 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. Speaking of health care reform, USA Today’s John Fritze wrote about former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle (S.D.) remaining a key player in the health care debate four months after tax questions prevented him from serving as Health and Human Services secretary. Fritze quotes Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, saying Daschle’s private citizen status raises questions about what Daschle is advocating for and who he is representing when he meets with Congressional lawmakers behind closed doors. “It’s like being a senator or being in the administration without having any of the restrictions,” Melanie said.

Politico‘s Kenneth Vogel reported on how at least a dozen lawmakers and political committees held fundraising events in conjunction with Monday night’s sold-out Bruce Springsteen concert at Downtown Washington’s Verizon Center. Vogel quotes Nancy Watzman, director of Sunlight’s Party Time project, as saying rock concerts are not an uncommon venue for political fundraisers. “Democrats do it and Republicans do it. They tend to have different musical choices, though,” Nancy said, conceding Monday’s cluster of Springsteen fundraisers are “quite a number for any particular concert, but that speaks to Bruce being The Boss.” Vogel wrote that Nancy is herself a Springsteen fan, and paid about $100 to see his recent concert in Denver. “I probably didn’t get as much bang for my buck, though, because I can’t call up a member of Congress now and say, ‘Hey, remember when he played “Born to Run?” Well, I have this bill I want to introduce.’”

Jim Abrams with the Associated Press wrote two articles about the earmarks House lawmakers are requesting to add to the transportation bill they will take up this summer. In the first article, Abrams quotes Bill Allison, Sunlight’s senior fellow, saying the collective disclosure is way ahead of where it was just three years ago. “But they could still be doing it better.” Bill said that the Transportation Committee process falls short of a new requirement in both the House and Senate Appropriations committees that members post earmark requests online before they submit them. Also, there is no central location for posting requests, making them difficult to find on Web sites, Abrams wrote. In the second article, Abrams reported that the lawmakers are requesting $136.3 billion in earmarks. He recounts Bill’s criticism about the absence of a central location for posting earmark requests, which makes them more difficult to locate. With the help of some other Sunlight staffers, Bill had dug through the earmark disclosures last week and built a easy-to-access database. His work motivated Mark Tapscott, editorial page editor at the Washington Examiner, to name Bill “One of the unsung heroes in the nation’s capital.” Eliza Krigman, writing at the National Journal‘s “Under the Influence” blog, also highlighted Bill’s work. Krigman wrote that “Sunlight’s ‘Real Time Investigations’ staff did the yeoman’s work of scrolling through member’s Web sites searching for transportation earmark requests through yesterday’s deadline.”

Thanks and see you next Friday.