The American Society for News Editors and OpenTheGovernment.org have put together a list of questions on open government for federal candidates for office. We join them in calling on the moderators to fulfill their roles as watchdogs by asking a question at the presidential debates about the policies the candidates would “implement to guarantee and advance public access to government information and sources.”
We hope to hear the answer to these questions, as well as other issues that are important to the future of open government in the United States and our leadership on the issue around the world:
- Will the campaigns embrace principles of transparency and accountability in the presidential transitions, removing an information gap between what staff are telling donors and lobbyists in private and the policies and programs the candidates are telling voters about in public?
- Are you committed to institutionalizing new approaches intended to usher in more open technology processes in the federal government, like the U.S. Digital Service and 18F?
After the embarrassing launch of the Healthcare.gov in 2013, the Obama administration has made meaningful progress towards modernizing the capacity of the federal government to deliver digital services that are fast, efficient and apply the principles of user-centric design. We are thrilled to see the commitment 18F, a digital agency within the government, has made to working in the open, creating open source software by default. So much remains to be done, however, with approximately 75 percent of the federal government’s annual IT budget going to operations and maintenance of legacy systems.
- Are you committed to continue the push to help the American public understand the true extent of the federal government’s data holdings while ensuring that agencies maintain and release data in machine-readable, electronic, nonproprietary formats?
From data held by the Department of Justice’s Foreign Agency Registration Act Unit on foreign lobbying in the U.S. to the Federal Communications Commission’s television station public files, data is stored in formats and ways that are not easy to use. The government can and should do better.
- Are you committed to continued participation in international efforts to promote open government around the world?
The Obama administration committed to 45 different reforms in the third National Action Plan for Open Government for the Open Government Partnership. How would your administration approach meeting these commitments and leading the world towards embracing transparency, accountability and democratic reforms?
- What steps would you take to improve the federal government’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)?
Congress made much-needed reforms to FOIA this year which President Obama signed into law. How would you implement them? Would you invest more money in a FOIA portal? What role would proactive disclosure play in your administration?
- Would you support or extend support for whistleblowers? How? Would you extend whistleblower protections to contractors in the intelligence community?
- Would you continue to publish data of the White House visitor logs online? Would you extend visitor logs to regulatory agencies?
- Would you continue President Obama’s ban on lobbyists visiting the White House? Will members of your transition and administration sign an ethics pledge? Will your White House have an “ethics czar” similar to the role Norm Eisen played in the Obama White House?
- Do you support transparent and accountable law enforcement? What would that look like in your administration? Would your Department of Justice fund more body cams for local departments, along with technology to store and publish the video, including redaction of video? Would you continue the Police Data Initiative?
- How will you approach improving the public’s ability to “follow the money” through campaign finance disclosures from the Federal Election Commission and reforming money in politics more broadly, including reigning in dark money spending by politically active nonprofits? What specific steps would take to improve how the FEC operates?
The presidential debates present a clear opportunity to press the candidates for answers on these important questions. We look forward to hearing these answered by the candidates in future debates