In the past week, a GOP-led dark money group from Arizona that had barely spent any money on federal races has dropped more than $1.2 million to oppose President Barack Obama, as well as $60,000 to oppose Utah’s only House Democrat, Jim Matheson.
The nonprofit group, Americans for Responsible Leadership (ARL), organized as a 501(c)4 under the tax code, does not have to disclose its donors under federal law. However, it may be compelled to do so because of a strikingly large $11 million donation to a political organization in California. The state’s Fair ...Continue reading
Voters head to the polls for primaries in six states today, with those in Arizona, North Dakota and Virginia inundated with the most money from super PACs trying to influence their votes. Here's a rundown of what outside groups are spending in the Grand Canyon, Peace Garden, and Old Dominion states, according to Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money tracker:
Special Election: Arizona's 8th Congressional District
Among today's races, the special election to fill the remaining term of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who resigned in January to focus on her rehabiliation, has attracted the most outside money ...Continue reading
The controversial Arizona immigration law that President Obama’s administration challenged came before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday was written by... View ArticleContinue reading
The Arizona Public Interest Research Group awarded Arizona an A-minus on how it helps taxpayers find information online pertaining to government spending.... View ArticleContinue reading
The Jordan-Elbridge County school district held a training session for the public on the county’s open meetings law. State Supreme... View ArticleContinue reading
I'm pleased to say that Caitlin and James have just finished giving our Open States project a lovely new design. Not only is the site now much more pleasing to look at, it's much easier to see the great progress that's being made by James, Mike and our volunteer contributors. In addition to the five states that are live (and supported by OpenGovernment), there are already another twelve states with "experimental" status. Don't let the scare-quotes scare you, though: while we wouldn't yet recommend building your air traffic control system or pacemaker firmware in such a way that it's dependent on our API coverage of Alaska, the scrapers from the experimental states are well on their way to being declared complete. Developers should confident about building around this data -- rest assured that it'll be declared "ready" soon enough.
And it's genuinely important work. State legislatures are where vital decisions are made about civil rights, transportation, education, taxes, land use, gun regulation, and a host of other issues. Far too often, these issues don't get the attention they deserve. It's a simple question of scale: there are a lot more resources available at the federal level for both lawmakers and journalists. That means state governance both requires more transparency and tends to get less of it. We think technology can help make the situation better -- that's what Open States is all about.
There are some interesting opportunities for cross-state work, too. Polisci geeks will probably appreciate the comparative politics opportunities that a common data model and API will allow (Gabriel Florit's already been creating some cool visualization experiments that build on our data). But there are also less academic applications for this information. Consider these two stories that NPR published last fall. They got a bit lost in the pre-election shuffle, but they made a big impression on me.
The gist of it is this: Arizona's controversial immigration law didn't happen by magic. One of the special interests fighting for it was the private prison lobby -- as you might imagine, having more prisoners means more business for them, and they saw increased enforcement of immigration laws as a growth opportunity. So, via an intermediary organization that specializes in this sort of thing, they conducted a legislator "education" campaign, wining and dining lawmakers and sending them home with prewritten model legislation.
All of this is perfectly legal. And, depending on your opinion about immigration, you might even approve of the policy outcome it produced. But it's hard to imagine anyone being okay with the shadowy role that commercial interests appear to have played in this legislative process. If we'd been able to spot the provenance of the legislation earlier, would journalists and organizers have been able to give the people of Arizona a more complete understanding of what was going on? I think so -- I hope so. That's the kind of use that Open States should make possible, and the one I'm most excited about.Continue reading
A recent report on how states are doing in their subsidy programs has been blog-fodder nationwide. But some of the... View ArticleContinue reading
The Open Government
Directive encouraged states to put valuable government data online. In this series we're reviewing each state's efforts in this direction.
This week: Arizona
Arizonans finally got a government spending website in February with azcheckbook.com, joining 35 other states that offer such data online. Transparency efforts there still have a long way to go, however. USPIRG, in an April report, rated Arizona last among states that have such open government sites.
State Treasurer Dean Martin, who calls AZcheckbook a "labor of love," says he completed it in his spare time and ...
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case has rendered 24 state election laws unconstitutional. The 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizens United reversed a provision of the McCain-Feingold act that prohibited any electioneering communication—defined as advertising via broadcast, cable or satellite that is paid for by corporations or labor unions. Many states have acted fast to counter corporations’ ability to spend endless amounts of money to influence elections by passing laws that force disclosure of all independent expenditures in near real time. The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group has decided to report what each of ...Continue reading
According to Department of Homeland Security statistics, there were an estimated 460,000 unauthorized immigrants in Arizona in January 2009. That statistic, making Arizona the state with the seventh largest illegal immigrant population, was often cited last week, as Gov. Jan Brewer signed the nation’s toughest law on illegal immigration.
The number comes from “Estimates of the Unauthorized Immigrant Population Residing in the United States,” a report that the DHS releases each year, but sadly does not add to Data.gov. It takes a little digging to find it, but the most recent report for January 2009 (released in ...