2010 in Policy


Throughout 2010, Sunlight’s issues have sat at the core of our national politics.

In January of last year, the Open Government Directive was just starting to be implemented, and President Obama called for earmark transparency and lobbying disclosure in his State of the Union Address. The Supreme Court undid decades of settled campaign finance restrictions, and the country was arguing about public negotiations for the then-embattled heathcare bill.

Those fights, and others like them, have continued through the year, and Sunlight’s policy work has been at the center of them.

Lobbying disclosure reform found a legislative vehicle in the updated Transparency in Government Act (among many other issues), just as the Obama administration expanded its self-imposed lobbying disclosure policies for TARP, the stimulus, and the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill.

Working with Rep. Steve Israel and Sen. Jon Tester, the signature Public Online Information Act was introduced in both chambers this spring. It redefines “public information” by requiring that any government information currently required to be available to the public be posted online, and sets forth better technology coordination between the branches of government to achieve that overarching goal.

Our Hill efforts also helped spur the creation of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, and the Advisory Committee on Transparency, which are both bringing substance to transparency reform in Congress.

While the DISCLOSE Act ultimately fell prey to obstruction in the Senate, Sunlight helped craft an initial response to the Citizens United decision, and pushed successfully for better data transparency to be added to the bill.  Sunlight’s suggested amendment to the DISCLOSE Act may have been the most bipartisan, consensus driven aspect of the entire legislative response to Citizens United.

Even if the DISCLOSE Act is dead for now, we’ll be vigorously pursuing this and other remedies to undisclosed spending in our elections.

The end of 2010 is bringing a number of transitions for our policy work. Obama’s Open Government Directive is at a crossroads (like other similar policies), and the changing majority in the House brings new opportunities for change (a 72 Hour Rule!), just as the outgoing majority brought their own new opportunities for transparency.

The Earmark Transparency Act finally got its hearing, and was reported out of a Senate committee.  While it untimately failed to pass in the 111th Congress, the idea of a single, searchable database of earmark information is fully ripe, and enjoying a growing consensus of support.

Rep. Foster introduced a bill that would force THOMAS data into public, in bulk — a perennial issue we’ve fought for unsuccessfully.  Legislative information continues its slow process toward being broadly, usefully, reusably and electronically public.

Even though we’re not sure what the new year will bring, we do know what where our efforts will be focused — bringing openness to government at all levels, helping to make online disclosure of our government a reality.

Whether it’s by celebrating the newly announced House Rules changes, and systematically working through the additional changes that should be implemented, or advocating for broader access to congressional video, or making sure that all bills are online for 72 Hours before their floor consideration.  Or whether we’re pushing the Executive branch and the Presidency to pursue the mature, reliable, aggressive policies necessary for a truly open and accountable government…

Sunlight’s policy work will be bringing our government into the sunshine.

If it’s anything like 2010, it’s going to be an amazing year.