House and Senate Support Open Gov Initiatives – April 15, 2014 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)
– Two Organizations Join the Coalition (more)
– Senate Passes the DATA Act (more)
– A Step Forward for Legislative Data (more)
– OTG Elsewhere (more)
– Join the Open Government Discussion Between Feds and Advocates (more)
– Watch the Trailer for 1971 FBI Break-In Documentary (more)

–Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others

US PIRG Ranks State Spending Transparency

On April 8th, the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) published its fifth annual report on access to state government spending data. According to PIRG, spending transparency is improving at an “uneven pace” across the country. The leading states include Indiana, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Vermont, and Wisconsin. The most transparent states provide detailed information on subsidies spent through the tax code. See grades for all states here.

CREW Successful in Federal Corruption Probe FOIA Suit

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) earned a court ruling that may allow increased access to records about federal corruption probes. CREW brought suit after the FBI withheld records on the investigation of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Partners Submit Comment on FOIA Ombuds to Administrative Conference

Several partners, including, joined the Center for Effective Government in comments submitted to the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS). The comments regarded ACUS’ draft recommendation on resolving FOIA disputes through alternative dispute resolution. The comments urged the conference to strengthen the recommendation by adding a pilot project to explore advisory opinions addressing individual cases, and more. Read the full comments here.

Groups Support Ending Bulk Collection of Data About Individuals

Forty organizations joined the Center for Democracy and Technology in a letter to urge swift markup and passage of the USA FREEDOM Act (HR 3361). Among other things, the bill would prohibit bulk collection of all data under Section 215 and 214 and the National Security Letter statutes and preserve the requirement of prior court approval. Read the letter here.

– Two Organizations Join the Coalition is pleased to welcome the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy (IATP) and the Center for Rural Strategies to the coalition. IATP works on a variety of policy issues “to ensure fair and sustainable food, farm and trade systems.” Learn more about their work here. The Center for Rural Strategies uses creative media and communication strategies to improve the economic and social conditions for rural communities around the world. Learn more about their work here.

– Senate Passes the DATA Act

On April 10th, the Senate passed a bill that will establish uniform federal standards for publishing government spending data. The Data Act ensures that spending information will be available as open, machine readable data. The House passed a similar bill late last year, and is expected to approve the Senate’s version. The Sunlight Foundation has more analysis here.

– A Step Forward for Legislative Data

By the start of the next Congress, greater opportunities will exist for the public to have better access to information about the legislative process thanks to language included in a House Appropriations bill. The language, championed by Representative Quigley, directs the Clerk to work with the Librarian of Congress and Public Printer to publish bill status information in a way that computers can easily process, making it easily reusable by apps and websites. This step is critical to helping make sure that the third party sites used by Members of Congress, their staff, and the public can continue to make timely and authoritative legislative information available. Learn more from CREW here. For more information about the work being done to open up legislative data, visit the Congressional Data Coalition.

– OTG Elsewhere

Don’t miss Katherine Hawkins, OTG’s national security fellow, at the Huffington Post discussing the intelligence committees’ oversight capabilities and responding to Jose Rodriguez about the accuracy of the Senate report on CIA interrogation methods. Long-time readers might remember that Mr. Rodriguez broke the law by destroying records showing the torture of detainees, but was never charged for his crime.

On April 10th Assistant Director Amy Bennett participated in a panel hosted by the American Society of Access Professionals (ASAP), along with Nate Jones of the National Security Archive, and Meredith Fuchs, the General Counsel at the Consumer Financial Protection Board. The panel addressed the best practices of federal government transparency and the impact of public disclosures. ASAP is a non-profit that provides high-quality training for federal workers on applying the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Privacy Act, and records management issues and creates a bridge between access professionals in the agencies out FOIA requesters. Find out more about ASAP here.

– Join the Open Government Discussion Between Feds and Advocates

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has launched a Federal Open Government Discussion Group for federal workers and the public to collaborate on open government issues. This initiative is particularly timely given that agencies are currently putting together new versions of their open government plans, which are required to include new initiatives to make the agency more transparent, collaborative, and participatory. Have some ideas to share? Visit the group’s page and request to be added.

– Watch the Trailer for 1971 FBI Break-In Documentary

At our Sunshine Week event this year, the panelists drew comparisons between the revelations stemming from the 1971 break-in to an FBI field office and the documents obtained by Edward Snowden. The new documentary 1971 takes an even closer look at the break-in and oversight efforts that followed. The trailer for the documentary is now available here.

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