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Tag Archive: rulemaking

Worried about public comments on draft open data policy? Here are the most common sentiments.

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Inviting public comments on draft policy can be a daunting proposition, especially in the age of angry Internet comments. Knowing how residents in other cities have responded to draft open data policy can help make that process more approachable. To better understand that we took a look at the most common sentiments in draft open data policy comments.

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New Rule Takes On Pay-to-Play in Muni Bonds

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Sunlight has long been an advocate for not only improved transparency of government institutions but also for thoughtful transparency measures that have open data standards in mind. Today we submitted a letter to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) supporting a proposed rule change that would give voters more information about who is trying to influence bond ballot issues. The Board is working toward improved disclosure of ballot campaign contributions by those with certain connections to municipal bonds. We applaud this step toward greater transparency on an issue that deeply impacts local governments and their constituents. Voters have a clear interest in understanding the context of the bonds approved for their communities. Investigative journalists have already used these kinds of disclosures to write stories like this one from Voice of San Diego, which exposed the trend of those who contributed to school bond campaigns receiving the contracts they spent money influencing. The improved disclosures MSRB is mandating will be available through the Electronic Municipal Market Access (EMMA) system, which is the free public platform for searching municipal bond information maintained by MSRB. Our comments also suggest the Board consider two more steps it could take toward 21st century disclosure.

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What Enron’s political e-mails tell us about corporate lobbying

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During its investigation into wrongdoing into Enron, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission made public almost 500,000 internal company e-mails. These e-mails provide a unique look into the workings of the company, including how the company conducted its political operations. A few years ago, my friend and Georgetown Political Science Professor Daniel J. Hopkins approached me about analyzing what was in these e-mails. The results of our research are now published in the latest issue of Legislative Studies Quarterly, and a copy of our paper, “The Inside View: Using the Enron E-mail Archive to Understand Corporate Political Attention” can be downloaded here. To sum up our findings briefly, the e-mails show Enron’s political operations as very engaged in the narrow details of policy , keeping close tabs on daily developments and devoting considerable resources to agency rulemaking. Meanwhile, we found only sporadic discussion of campaign finance.

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Social Media and Public Comments in Rulemaking

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Social media is playing an increasing role in how the government interacts with citizens. Just take a look at the number of comments members of Congress receive via platforms like Twitter or Facebook, or look to the amount of interaction in the "Ask Me Anything" discussion President Barack Obama held on Reddit. How can social media can be used to facilitate public comment in the rulemaking process? An ongoing project to discover its pros and cons is being run by the Administrative Conference of the United States' (ACUS) Committee on Rulemaking. The group, along with consultant Michael Herz, is looking into legal and policy challenges to using social media in rulemaking, with the aim of identifying ways to resolve some of those obstacles. Another goal is to encourage "appropriate and innovative ways to use social media to facilitate broader, more meaningful public participation in rulemaking activities."

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