Making the Case for Transparency – November 25, 2014 Newsletter

– Brief Updates on Coalition Partners & Others (more)
– Office of Special Counsel Releases Open Government Plan; Some Required Plans Still Missing (more)

– Giving Tuesday (more)

Don't Miss from OTG: 

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the bipartisan FOIA Improvement Act. The USA Freedom Act failed to advance. OTG partners and the CIA Oversight Committee oppose the CIA’s request for additional authority to destroy emails. The lame duck session of Congress still holds promise. We are hiring!

 News from Coalition Partners & Others

OTG Colleagues Make the Case for Transparency

This month, the Brookings Center for Effective Public Management published “Why Critics of Transparency Are Wrong,” an article debunking myths about transparency in government. The piece, written by the Project On Government Oversight’s Danielle Brian, the Bauman Foundation’s Gary D. Bass, and Brookings’ Norman Eisen, refutes several articles criticizing transparency in the federal government and Congress and spotlights voices from the open government community. Danielle Brian and Gary Bass are the current and former chairs of the Steering Committee, respectively.

Ryan Alexander and Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Common Sense also rejected the notion that earmarks are a key to a more efficient and effective Congress. In short, they note “there is little evidence that earmarks break gridlock and reduce the very real ideological divisions we see in today’s Congress. In fact, bringing earmarks back may reduce momentum to obtain more substantive and transformative reforms.” Read the article featured in U.S. News and World Report here

POGO Survey Finds Public Extractives Data Lacking

When private companies mine and drill on public lands, the public deserves to have access to detailed data about the environmental impact, worker safety, revenues and more. The Project On Government Oversight conducted a survey of communities across the country affected by extractive industries to determine what level of detail the public needs. POGO reports that most respondents want the US government to publish revenue data by lease or mine-level. The revenue data that already exists is also difficult to find. Read more of POGO’s findings here

Defending Dissent Launches “Dissent Newswire”

Defending Dissent now presents daily news, analysis and commentary on dissent, civil liberties, and more. Recent Dissent Newswire stories cover a range of issues, from the state of emergency declared in Ferguson, Missouri, to the Senate’s rejection of the USA FREEDOM Act. Subscribe to weekly Newswire updates here, or check out the publication’s blogs here

 I. Office of Special Counsel Releases Open Government Plan; Some Required Plans Still Missing

Although it was not required to do so under the Open Government Directive, the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) recently released its open government plan, spotlighting an initiative to prevent employer retaliation against whistleblowers. The plan also includes the agency’s initiative to proactively disclose documents identified by external stakeholders and staff, including advisory opinions, materials related to whistleblower disclosures, policy materials, and more. We appreciate the agency’s work to make its work more open and transparent.

The White House’s second National Action Plan makes protections for whistleblowers an essential part of open government; it requires all federal agencies to be certified under OSC’s 2302(c) program every three years. The OSC program requires that agencies provide information about the Whistleblower Protection Act and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act during new employees’ orientation and display posters at agency facilities on disclosures and prohibited retaliation practices.

OMB and VA Plans Missing

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Department of Veteran Affairs are each required to release an open government plan. Under the Administration’s updated guidance, their plans were due on June 1st, 2014. As Executive Director Patrice McDermott made clear in a recent Roll Call op-ed, transparency should be the foundation of the VA’s recovery from its recent health care failings. The OMB should serve as an example for other agencies’ plans. Instead, it is a glaring omission.

 II. Giving Tuesday

Please consider supporting a week from now on Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is a global celebration of "giving back" after Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This holiday season, we are thankful for your generous support as we work for a more open government.