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Tag Archive: Sunshine Week

A Challenge from Beth Noveck

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Late last week, after the Sunshine Week Lessig lecture, the always thoughtful Beth Noveck -- law professor and director of both the Institute for Information Law and Policy and Democracy Design Workshop, and friend -- compared the Lessig speech to a June 2007 speech, by open-source-licensing crusader Eben Moglen.

Beth said Moglen is an optimist who is inclined to trust people's ability to collaborate and work together. She wrote that his take on government is revolutionary and evolutionary. Lessig is a pessimist, she says, full of dismay at the state of the body politic, yet wants to preserve the status quo ultimately. (I'm not sure I completely agree with the assessment of Lessig as pessimist but that's not the point I want to make right now.)

Beth says that the best approach is a mash-up of both approaches:"Lessig's orientation toward action and pragmatism with Moglen's boldness of vision." She advocates that we take a whole new look at government institutions and governance, and start using technology to empower citizens in order to fundamentally change the way government works.

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End of Sunshine Week Thoughts

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If you could treat information about your work the way information about Congress is treated, it would be the equivalent of going into a job interview with a nearly blank resume. A resume is information that a potential employer uses to hire you for a job. And because members of Congress work for us, how can we evaluate their job performance if we don't have meaningful access to information about what they do and who they do it for?

Congress should put information, which relates to the business of lawmaking, online in real time. All their required filings (such as reports about their personal financial investments and their campaign finance reports) should be posted on the Internet in real time and in a way that people can easily search them. The legislation that lawmakers are going to vote on should be posted online three days before the vote so ordinary people can read and evaluate it. The correspondence between Congress and the executive branch should be put online. Congressional earmarks in both the Senate and the House should be fully disclosed with the who, what, where, and why before they are decided on. (For more information click here.)

These measures - and there are no doubt others -- can help create a more open and accountable Congress. The purpose of Sunshine Week is to partake in dialogue about what it means to have an open government and how we can achieve it. The events of the past week are a call to lawmakers to be more transparent and accountable. The image that this week provides is of a united citizenry asking government to be more open so we can trust them again. Let us in because we can help each other run a great nation.

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Mr. Lessig Comes to Washington

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Lawrence Lessig, Stanford University law professor and world-renowned expert in intellectual property, is announcing that he's going to invest a significant amount of his time and energy confronting the pervasive and corruptive influence of money in our democracy. You may have heard of the recent Draft Lessig movement that almost convinced him to run for Congress. He ultimately decided not to make the run, but he's not retreating from the fight.

Today, at a lecture here in Washington, sponsored by Sunlight and Omidyar Network, he's launching the ChangeCongress project where he'll focus his academic interests on the issue of the systemic corruption of American democracy. Lessig will outline his hopes for ChangeCongress and how it will help citizens reclaim their democracy from the culture of corruption.

Lessig will give his lecture at 1:30 p.m. (Eastern Time) today at the National Press Club. We are very proud that Lessig recently joined Sunlight's advisory board, where he's helping us stay on the vanguard of using technology to promote a transparent and open government. If you can't make it to the lecture you can watch the Web cast.

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Two Events for Open Government Fans

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We're continuing the Sunshine Week festivities with two events dedicated to promoting a more open government. We invite you to join us, and for those of you who can't make it to Washington, DC, we encourage you to watch the webcasts of the events.

Today at 1pm EDT, in conjunction with Open the Government, Greg Elin of Sunlight Labs will moderate a panel to demonstrate new ways nonprofits have made government data open and useful to the public.

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Sunshine Week

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It's Sunshine Week here in DC and, well, the sun is shining which is an auspicious beginning. This is a hugely important national initiative launched six years ago about the importance of open government and freedom of information. How important? According to a Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University survey released today just 4% of the surveyed Americans believe the federal government is very open -- and 44% believe it is very secretive.

Participants in Sunshine Week activities which are held throughout the country include print, broadcast and online news media, civic groups, libraries, non-profits, schools and others interested in the public's right to know. Here in D.C. there are two panels on Wednesday at the National Press Club plus a lecture by Professor Lawrence Lessig that Sunlight and Omidyar Network are sponsoring on Thursday. More details tomorrow on both of these.

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Sunshine Proposals from Open Secrets

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Speaking of the Center for Responsive Politics, it's probably worth noting that they've issued some useful suggestions to increase government transparency and the ease of accessing government records, all in time for Sunshine Week. Also worth noting that they provide a list of contacts at the bottom of the page so you can pass on their suggestions. They're all good, but here's one that I think is tremendously important:

Politicians might call it party-building, but the contributions they make from their personal political action committees (a.k.a. leadership PACs) seem more like career-building, as they collect chits to secure a committee chairmanship or leadership position.

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