Transparency and accountability are the foundations for public trust in government. The Internet is making increased transparency cheaper, more effective, and in more in demand every day as Americans come to expect instantaneous and constant access to all kinds of information. Given the rapid technological advances in how information can be captured, stored, analyzed and shared, the Sunlight Foundation believes it is time to update and expand government’s transparency mandate.
Our federal level advocacy is focused on a number of important issues, ranging from open data to campaign finance disclosure and lobbing reform. We push for changes in Congress and the executive branch by proposing policy changes, conducting research and oversight activities, providing comments, meeting with staff, and testifying at hearings.
Our 2018 policy agenda highlights changes that can be made in the executive and legislative branches of federal government. This year, we are working both to defend open government progress and advance transparency and accountability reforms in the executive branch as President Trump begins his second year in office. We are pushing the 115th Congress to adopt reforms to make our politics and government more open, transparent, accountable and ethical, from mandating presidential tax return disclosure to adding disclaimers and disclosures to online electioneering to updating federal ethics laws.
Some of our main activities are highlighted below:
- The Sunlight Foundation’s legislative and executive branch agendas broadly address areas in which greater transparency is needed to ensure public access to vital government information. We make specific recommendations to improve transparency in lobbying, money in politics, and open data.
- Our collection of policy one-pagers outlines specific opportunities for reform. They detail proposed legislation, executive orders and other White House action, and agency rules changes.
- Sunlight works to change lobbying rules so that the public has real-time, online information about who is influencing policy decisions on Capitol Hill. We drafted The Real-Time Online Lobbying Disclosure Act to show how that lobbying transparency can be accomplished.We also support efforts by members of Congress to reform lobbying disclosure rules. The Lobbying Disclosure Enhancement Act, championed by Rep. Mike Quigley, would significantly increase public knowledge of influence wielding in Washington.
- The Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision, opened the door to an unfettered, unregulated influx of money into elections from corporations and labor unions.The first step in addressing the multitude of problems the decision created is transparency through increased disclosure. In 2018, it remains incumbent upon Congress to create a robust, rapid transparency regime that takes full advantage of modern technology. This requires real-time, online transparency on every level of influence, from independent expenditures to lobbying to bundled campaign contributions.
- The Sunlight Foundation has created this set of Open Data Guidelines for Procurement to help shape how governments release information to the public about what they’re buying and selling with taxpayer dollars. More transparency in procurement can reduce corruption, make procurement more efficient and effective, and allow for more accountability.