In This Issue:
News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Groups Suggest Steps to Make Government More Open and Effective
II. Groups: No-cost Access to Rulemaking Records Necessary for Public Participation
III. FOIA Ombudsman Office Launches New Site, Still Waiting on OMB Approval to Release Recommendations
News from Coalition Partners & Others
The Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution recently published a report authored by J.H. Snider of iSolon.org. The report, Government-wide Information Sharing for Democratic Accountability, explores why the politics of using unique identifiers to track powerful political players across government databases may be less dismal than widely believed.
The Government Accountability Project's (GAP) recent publication, The Corporate Whistleblower's Survival Guide: A Handbook for Committing the Truth, has been awarded the prestigious getAbstract International Business Book of the Year Award at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair. This prize seeks to honor books that have made a worldwide impact in business and economics. Learn more about the book, and the award, here.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) organized a letter signed by OpenTheGovernment.org and several coalition partners urging the House Committee on Financial Services to reject HR 2483, a bill that would gut the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) whistleblower programs created last year by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government Sponsored Enterprises is scheduled to mark up the bill on December 14 at 10:00 am.
OpenTheGovernment.org recently shared a report with the Administration that includes recommendations for implementing each of the commitments in the National Action Plan (NAP). The report, which addresses issues including (but not limited to) improving declassification, managing electronic records, protecting whistleblower rights, and improving public participation in government, was drafted with input from a variety of our coalition partners and other allies that have a stake in helping make the US government more open and accountable.
The NAP was developed as part of the Administration's engagement in the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international initiative to make governments more transparent, effective and accountable. Among other requirements, countries that join OGP must deliver an action plan that is developed with public consultation.
When the Obama Administration released the NAP in September, we welcomed the broad range of commitments. The NAP addresses three broad challenges, and includes 26 commitments to help achieve 17 goals. Our report is designed to make it clear what steps the Administration needs to take to meet its commitments, and what additional steps we suggest the Administration takes to meet its goals.
In September 2012, our coalition will release an assessment of the Obama Administration's performance on its NAP commitments.
Last week several organizations, including many coalition partners, joined OpenTheGovernment.org in submitting a comment on a draft report on "Incorporation by Reference" under consideration by the Administrative Conference of the United States (ACUS) stating that, "In 21st century America, it is simply unacceptable for our federal government to expect meaningful public input in the development of rules or faithful compliance with adopted rules if the public does not have no-cost access to the full, relevant rulemaking records and to all standards and criteria incorporated in the final rules." The general statement is in line with more detailed comments we submitted with Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on an earlier draft of the report.
The recommendations, approved by the ACUS last week, provide guidance to agencies on how to provide public access to copyrighted materials “incorporated by reference” (referring to but not linking to them or including complete copies) into rulemakings and rules. While the recommendations of the ACUS report attempt to balance the scales of access to the law and encouragement of private standards development, the recommendations tip the balance too far in the wrong direction. Fundamental principles of American democracy dictate that “citizens must have free access to the laws which govern them.” Without agency policies that foster broad availability, incorporation of copyrighted materials permits copyright holders to serve as gatekeepers of public access to federal law.
Learn more about the recommendations, and read comments from other groups and individuals here.
The Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), which was created by the OPEN Government Act of 2001 to act as a mediator for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disputes between federal agencies and requesters and to make recommendations for improving FOIA processing, has launched a new website. The site features a searchable database of cases which will streamline OGIS' management of requests for assistance and increase transparency of its operations. Read OGIS' announcement, and learn about more of the websites features here.
As has been recently reported, OGIS is still awaiting approval by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to release its recommendations for agencies to improve FOIA processing. OGIS submitted the recommendations to OMB more than nine months ago.