Sunlight joins C-SPAN to make sense of the state of open government


This morning, Sunlight’s John Wonderlich joined Greta Wodele Brawner on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal to discuss Sunshine Week, transparency and accountability in the United States. You can watch the segment in the video embedded below:

C-SPAN asked John for our views on the Trump administration’s approach to date on open government. Following is a short list of examples that we think offer some insight.

  • How candidates conduct campaigns and transitions carries into office. After making himself available to the press through July, Trump set a bar as the least transparent modern presidential candidate in modern history. He held no press conference until January, no tax returns, no proactive disclosures around transition or inauguration.
  • Ethics: Lack of disclosure of tax returns and divestment in accordance with decades of tradition sets up the Trump presidency for ongoing appearance of corruption, with an unknown number of conflicts of interest around the world
  • No affirmative vision for open government. No public statements on the Freedom of Information Act, open government, open data, transparency, nor this year’s Sunshine Week. No comment on White House visitor logs, followed by the Press Secretary responding that they are “considering” whether to disclose them at all.
  • Congress voted to remove an anti-corruption rule, which President Trump signed with fanfare, abandoning U.S. leadership on transparency of payments by the extractive industries to government
  • Secret gag orders to agencies began the Trump administration
  • Historic attacks on the role of the free press in democracy
  • While is still missing policy documents, executive orders are now posted in a timely fashion
  • No US chief technology officer, nor any evidence of plans for one, along with hundreds of key appointees not submitted to the Senate, including the US chief information officer, chief science advisor
  • The President claimed to have made the most transparent selection of a nominee to be a Supreme Court Justice, given the campaign disclose of lists of potential nominees. When it came to announce his nominee, however, the White House tried to mislead out the press with another choice.
  • Antagonism to government statistics and evidence: President Trump repeatedly said federal jobs numbers were “phony” but now aren’t
  • Levied attacks on the independent judiciary after judges struck down his executive order as unconstitutional
  • Moved drones for counterterrorism back to CIA, away from accountability and transparency at Department of Defense

Please send us your stories of more positive or negative examples of transparency and accountability under President Trump.