This Week in Transparency – August 21, 2009


Here are some of the more interesting media mentions of Sunlight and our friends and allies over the past week:

Last Saturday afternoon, C-SPAN broadcast an interview of Ellen Miller, Sunlight’s executive director, discussing how the Internet is being used to provide transparency in the workings of government.

The Associated Press used data from the Center for Responsive Politics Chevron Corp. spent more than $12.8 million lobbying the federal government in the first half of this year, in an attempt to influence pending climate-change legislation and taxes targeting oil producers. So far this year, the oil giant has almost matched the $12.9 million they spent lobbying in all of 2008.

The Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker, the searchable database that allows users to easily follow the money and connect the dots within records of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) database, launched this week. ProPublica and Sunlight teamed up on the project that allows anyone to quickly learn what foreign governments are lobbying whom, how often and about what. Alex Knott with CQ Politics covered the launch and quotes Ellen saying how information contained on the site shows how effective lobbyists can be. “While it brings needed transparency to these filings, it raises the question of what lobbyists for health care, energy and other interests — who disclose far less information — are up to in Washington,” she said. In this morning’s “In the Loop” column, The Washington Post’s Al Kamen highlighted the Tracker. “What? You don’t have a registered foreign agent working for you?” he asked. “Everyone’s got one. Even the Dalai Lama!”

Katherine Mangu-Ward, senior editor of Reason magazine, writing at The Wall Street Journal, penned a column titled “Transparency Chic,” where she highlights several efforts by private groups and individuals to pry open government information. “Tech celebs like Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales have flocked to the Sunlight Foundation, which uses the Internet to improve meaningful access to government,” she wrote.

ABC News‘ David Wright reported on the health care debate and includes a quote from Bill Allison, Sunlight’s senior fellow, about the special interests attempts to influence the health care debate. Bill explained who’s working for who: “Insurance companies battling providers. Drug companies battling insurance companies. Hospitals going to war against nursing homes. All kinds of institutions are looking to protect their interests.”

McClatchy Newspapers editorialized about how the Obama administration is continuing some of the opaque practices of the Bush administration despite promises to the contrary. They cite Ellen’s blog post from last week about the need for the White House to list presidential signing statements on its Web site in an easy-to-find manner as an example. A number of McClatchy papers ran the editorial, including The (Colorado Springs, Colo.) Gazette.