Policy and News Update for August 9, 2011

In This Issue: 

News from Coalition Partners & Others
I. Help Open "Super Committee" to Public
II. Senate Passes Faster FOIA – Again – After Debt Ceiling Set-back
III. Bill to Make Congressionally-Mandated Reports More Accessible Introduced in Senate

News from Coalition Partners & Others

ALA Leads Successful Campaign for Access to Taxpayer-funded Report

On Friday, the Government Printing Office (GPO) made publicly available a taxpayer-funded report by Ithaka on new models for the Federal Library Depository Library Program (FDLP) and restored access to content from a website containing public comments and early drafts of the report. A recent letter sent to the GPO by the American Library Association called attention to the issue. Prior to GPO’s announcement, ALA and several of our coalition partners had agreed to sign on to a similar letter asking GPO to release the report and restore access to the website content.

GAP Announces Dates for 2011 Whistleblower Assembly in Washington

The Government Accountability Project – GAP announces that the 2011 Whistleblower Assembly in Washington will be held September 19-20. The annual event is an educational forum for learning about recent changes effecting federal and corporate whistleblowers and related legislation. This year the event includes a "lobby day" to give the community the opportunity to join together in an advocacy effort designed to protect and increase the rights of whistleblowers. Check out the schedule here. Registration will be free and open to the public soon.

Audit the Fed Spreads Word of Latest GAO Study

The Audit the Fed Coalition, which includes several of our partners, is bringing attention to news that the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered how the U.S. provided $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the 2008 financial crisis.

National Security Archive Lawsuit Leads to Release of Bay of Pigs Records

A lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive forced the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to release the official history of the Bay of Pigs invasion. The agency continues to withhold the fifth volume of the formerly "top secret" documents.

I. Help Open "Super Committee" to Public

OpenTheGovernment.org is happy to support a campaign managed by our partner, the Sunlight Foundation, to urge the so-called "Super Congress" created by the recent debt ceiling agreement to operate in an open and transparent fashion. The twelve appointed members of the Super Congress will have unprecedented power to decide on $1.5 trillion in debt reduction over the next ten years. Under the legislation, only the first meeting of the Committee, the final proposal, and the vote are open to the public– meaning the only other people privileged enough to get in the room could be the fleet of K Street lobbyists gearing up to protect their clients’ interests. The public may not know the contents of the agreement until final deal is announced. And, under the terms of the debt ceiling bill, once the final deal is announced no changes can be made to it. Add your voice to the effort to get the Super Congress to adopt common-sense transparency rules like requiring there are live webcasts of all official meetings and hearings, the committee report is posted for 72 hours before a final vote, an online record of every meeting held with lobbyists and other powerful interests is posted, campaign contributions are posted online as they are received, and financial disclosures of committee members and staffers are posted online.

These steps are certainly not all the things the Super Congress can – or should – do to make sure they are accountable to the public. Our colleagues at the Project On Government Oversight- POGO have a few more suggestions. If you have more suggestions, email us. On Twitter? Let us know your thoughts @OpenTheGov and use the hashtag #supercongress.

II. Senate Passes Faster FOIA – Again – After Debt Ceiling Set-back

A few days after House Republican leadership sent the Faster FOIA Act back to the starting line by stripping out all the FOIA provisions from the Senate-passed bill and replacing it with Speaker Boehner’s debt proposal, the Senate passed a new version of the bill (now S. 1466). The Faster FOIA act, a bipartisan bill championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), establishes the Commission on FOIA Processing Delays. Despite a fairly recent Congressional effort (the OPEN Government Act of 2007) to make FOIA processes more efficient, backlogs, delays and other administrative issues continue to frustrate FOIA requesters. The Commission would study and make recommendations to Congress and the President for addressing some of the thorniest problems that keep the public from being able to gain access to records of the government. We continue to urge the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to move the bill forward.

 

III. Bill to Make Congressionally-Mandated Reports More Accessible Introduced in Senate

On July 25, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (S 1411) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Thomas Coburn (R-OK). The bill would make it easier for the public to find information about how well federal agencies are (or are not) fulfilling their respective missions– from ensuring the safety of our drugs and food supply, to protecting the environment, and monitoring the soundness of our financial institutions– and to use the information to hold officials accountable for their actions. The bill was referred to the Rules Committee.

When Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced the House version of the bill (HR 1947) earlier this year, almost 30 organizations joined OpenTheGovernment.org in endorsing the legislation. The House bill has been referred to both the Oversight and the Government Reform Committee (which has approved the bill) and Administration Committee.

 

 

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