Updated: Questions for 2016 Candidates for Federal Offices on Government Accountability, Public Disclosure, and the Right to Know

OpenTheGovernment.org and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) have drafted these open government-related questions that can be asked of all candidates for federal office.  Our hope is that they will be used broadly - by editorial boards, reporters covering the 2016 campaigns, and interested members of the public who have an opportunity to speak with candidates.

Abuse of Congressional Oversight Authority Poses a Threat to Open Government Advocacy Work

In May, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology issued subpoenas to nine science advocacy organizations‒including a partner in the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition, the Union of Concerned Scientists‒demanding disclosure of the organizations’ communications with state prosecutors. The subpoenas were issued as part of the Chairman’s effort to investigate whether science advocacy organizations are “conspiring” with state prosecutors “to deprive ExxonMobil of its First Amendment rights”.  In response, the Ranking member of the Committee, Rep.

Coalition: DOJ’s proposed implementation of Deaths In Custody Reporting Act does not meet the law’s requirements

Today, OpenTheGovernment.org joined a coalition of criminal justice, civil rights, human rights, faith-based, immigrant rights, LGBTQ, and open government organizations in expressing concern over the Justice Department’s proposed implementation of the Deaths In Custody Reporting Act (DICRA) -- which requires states and federal law enforcement agencies, to report to the Attorney General certain information on the death of any person who is de

Coalition submits comments opposing FBI proposal to exempt controversial biometrics database from Privacy Act protections

Today, OpenTheGovernment.org submitted comments -- endorsed by civil rights, human rights, immigrant rights, privacy and transparency organizations -- to the Department of Justice about proposed Privacy Act exemptions to the FBI’s biometrics database – the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system. The comments oppose the FBI proposal to exempt the NGI system from virtually every key provision of the Privacy Act. The comments call for stro

President signs most significant reform to FOIA since its original passage

June 30, 2016 – Today, the President signed the FOIA Improvement Act, codifying into law comprehensive bipartisan reforms to the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the first time in nearly a decade. The signing of the bill comes days before the 50th anniversary of the FOIA, signed into law on July 4, 1966. The FOIA Improvement Act is the result of a herculean effort on the part of Congressional leaders, staff members, and open government advocates who have been working to push the FOIA reform legislation that is critical to ensuring government accountability.

Importantly, the reform bill codifies the presumption of openness -- requiring records be released unless there is a foreseeable harm or legal requirement to withhold them. This language mirrors the Obama Administration’s and the Department of Justice’s 2009 guidance on FOIA, which reversed the policy of the Bush administration that had encouraged agencies to limit discretionary disclosures of information. With these legislative changes, the law makes clear that FOIA, under any administration, must be approached with a presumption of openness. 

Coalition calls for hearing on FBI’s use of facial recognition and proposal to exempt biometrics database from Privacy Act protections

Today, OpenTheGovernment.org is joining a coalition of civil rights, human rights, immigrant rights, privacy and transparency organizations, and companies calling on members of Congress to hold an oversight hearing to assess the privacy, civil liberties, and human right issues raised by the FBI’s massive biometric database– the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, to require the FBI’s compliance with the

RSVP for June 28 Open Government Town Hall - FOIA Beyond 50

July 4th, 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) -- a key moment to celebrate the law, which has empowered the public with access to government information and provided a critical tool used to raise public awareness of countless acts of waste, fraud, abuse, and illegal actions. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the FOIA, OpenTheGovernment.org is planning a Town Hall to discuss the future of FOIA beyond its 50th anniversary.

Congress sends FOIA reform bill to the President’s desk

WASHINGTON, June 13, 2016 – Today, the House passed the FOIA Improvement Act (S.337), bringing the comprehensive FOIA reform bill one step closer to becoming law. The FOIA Improvement Act passed the Senate by unanimous consent on March and, in a bicameral & bipartisan effort to ensure the FOIA legislation is signed into law during this Congress, House leadership decided to vote on the Senate version, and send the bill to the White House for the President’s signature.