OpenTheGovernment.org Lauds Journalists Celebrating Sunshine Week, Places Ads Online


"Openness in government strengthens democracy, roots out abuse of power, and lets the public make the choices they feel are right to keep their families safe," said Gary D. Bass, executive director of OMB Watch and co-chair of OpenTheGovernment.org. "Public pressure helps keep officials accountable by shining a light on facts that may be inconvenient for current policy or embarrassing for those in power," said Tom Blanton, executive director of the National Security Archive and co-chair of OpenTheGovernment.org. Most significant are three bills to strengthen the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National Government Act of 2005 (OPEN Government Act, S. 394), which would close loopholes, speed agency responses, and make it easier for the public to track FOIA requests. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the OPEN Government Act in the House of Representatives (H.R. 867). Sen. Cornyn will preside over a hearing on the OPEN Government Act on Tuesday, March 15, 2005 before the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security. Sens. Cornyn and Leahy also teamed up to introduce on March 10 the Faster FOIA Act (bill number not available), which would establish an Advisory Commission on Freedom of Information Act Processing Delays. The 16-member commission would be charged with reporting to Congress and the president its recommendations for steps that should be taken to reduce delays in the processing of requests under FOIA. Finally, Sen. Leahy will re-introduce next week the Restore FOIA Act, which would let the government do more to protect Americans and our critical infrastructure, enhance whistleblower protections and ensure the program that government uses to collect information about our critical infrastructure conforms to FOIA. OpenTheGovernment.org will launch a week of online advertising to highlight open government. For Sunshine Week, a wide collection of journalists publishing in newspapers, television, radio and the Internet are offering an impressive array of stories, op-eds, ads, political cartoons, and resources to call public attention to increased secrecy in government and the real impacts of open government on everyday lives. OpenTheGovernment.org is an unprecedented coalition of 38 groups and other Americans, including journalists, consumer and good government groups, environmentalists, labor and others united out of a concern for what U.S. News and World Report called a "shroud of secrecy" descending over our local, state and federal governments. We’re focused on making the federal government a more open place to make us safer, strengthen public trust in government, and support our democratic principles. Groups represented on the Steering Committee include: AFL-CIO, American Association of Law Libraries, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Center for American Progress, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Environmental Defense, Federation of American Scientists, Fund for Constitutional Government, National Security Archive, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, OMB Watch, People For the American Way, and Society of Professional Journalists. ###

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