Policy and News Updates for May 19, 2009


News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. Senate Adds an Element of Transparency to Votes

II. OpenTheGovernment.org, Coalition Partners, Urge Senate to Open CRS Reports

III. OpenTheGovernment.org and Coalition Partners: Restore Measure of Transparency to the White House
 

News from Coalition Partners & Others

 

OMB Watch, POGO, Testify on Recovery Act Implementation

On May 5, Gary Bass of OMB Watch and Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) testified before the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight of the House Science and Technology Committee on the topic of "Government and Public Resources for Recovery Act Oversight." The hearing was the second Subcommittee hearing dedicated to oversight of the way in which science and technology-related agencies will manage the Recovery Act. Read all of the testimony presented during the hearing here.

 

Coalition Partners Support Organizing to Protect National Security Whistleblowers

On May 11, a group of national security whistleblowers sent a letter to the Obama administration urging them to protect federal employees who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse. The letter was released by coalition partners the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). GAP, coalition partner Public Citizen, and others presented testimony at the May 14 House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on "Protecting the Public from Waste, Fraud and Abuse: The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009." Read the testimony here.

 

OMB Watch Relaunches RTK Net

Earlier this month, OMB Watch relaunched a redesigned and expanded website for the Right-to-Know Network (RTK NET). The site provides provide free access to several government databases of environmental information and useful news and analysis on issues impacting citizens’ right to know about threats to the environment and public health.

 

Coalition Partners Support Increased Federal Reserve Transparency

OpenTheGovernment.org joined several coalition partners in signing an open letter to the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 1207, "The Federal Reserve Transparency Act," a bill that would eliminate the restrictions on Government Accountability Office (GAO) audits of the Federal Reserve. On May 5th, the letter’s organizer, the Campaign for Liberty, placed the letter as an advertisement in the Washington Times.

 

Coalition Partners Support Congressional Effort to Improve Recovery Spending Transparency

OpenTheGovernment.org and several coalition partners openly supported a Congressional effort to push for full transparency of Recovery funds last week. The organizations endorsed a letter sent by Representative Tierney (D-MA) and nine of his House colleagues from both sides of the aisle to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting OMB use its authority to require agencies to collect information from all federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding recipients on all tiers of sub-awards.

 

I. Senate Adds an Element of Transparency to Votes

Transparency and good government advocates won a small, but important, victory when the Senate recently decided to begin publishing the electronic data, or XML files, behind Senate roll call votes on Senate.gov. The public, watchdog groups, and journalists will be able to use the data to search, sort, and visualize Senate voting records in new ways (as they have done for five years with XML data published by the House). Thanks to the tireless work of many coalition partners, including the Sunlight Foundation, and participants in the Open House Project, the House and Senate have faced increasing pressure to open legislative information to the public; improved access to legislative information is cited as the sixth "most wanted" item in "Show Us the Data: Most Wanted Federal Documents, a report recently produced by OpenTheGovernment.org and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). Publishing XML data is far away from the "comprehensive information about legislation and congressional actions" via a government-sponsored website, as called for in the report, but is a step in the right direction.

II. OpenTheGovernment.org, Coalition Partners, Urge Senate to Open CRS Reports

On May 14th, over 40 open government advocates sent a letter organized by OpenTheGovernment.org and the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) asking the Senate Rules Committee to hold public hearings on open government issues and to mark-up and pass S.R. 118, a resolution that would improve public access to reports by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). OpenTheGovernment.org’s recent report with CDT, " Show Us the Data: Most Wanted Federal Documents" identified CRS reports as the number one most desired government document by the public. According to Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, "There is a real public thirst for Congressional information. It is our hope that Congress will work with the executive branch to truly create an unprecedented level of openness in government."

 

III. OpenTheGovernment.org and Coalition Partners: Restore Measure of Transparency to the White House

Last week OpenTheGovernment.org and many coalition partners sent a letter asking the Obama Administration to treat the White House’s Office of Administration (OA) as an agency subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the interest of transparency and accountability. The letter, written by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) points out that from its inception in 1977 until August 2007, OA functioned consistently as an agency subject to the FOIA. In August 2007, in the midst of litigating a FOIA request brought by CREW for records related to OA’s discovery that millions of e-mail messages were missing from White House servers, the Bush administration abruptly changed course and declared OA is not an agency and therefore need not comply with CREW’s or any other information requests under the FOIA.

 

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