Policy and News Updates for November 17, 2009




News from Coalition Partners & Others

I. OpenTheGovernment.org Joins Letter Protesting Secrecy, Urging Openness, in IP Pact Negotiations


II. Advocates Ask Congress to Ensure Healthcare Advisory Panels are Transparent


III. PATRIOT Act Extension Moves in the House


IV. Archivist Confirmed


News from Coalition Partners & Others


Click Here to Help Open Access to CRS Reports

The National Institute on Money in State Politics Investigates Stimulus Contracts


The National Institute on Money in State Politics released
Recovery Watch” on November 4 to
pinpoint possible influence of state-level political campaign contributions on the subsequent awarding of stimulus contracts.
To identify where donors received contracts, the Institute correlated direct federal ARRA contract recipient names from Recovery.gov with the
names of political donors in each of the 50 states from the Institute’s comprehensive database of state-level political contributions.
The study found little influence of campaign contributions on stimulus contracts. Edwin Bender, executive director of the Institute, said he
“hope(s) that this mashup will inspire people who want to improve transparency and accountability in government to try
new things, and experiment with the new data being offered by the government.”

Steven Aftergood, FAS, Lectures on Secrecy and Democracy


On November 11, Steven Aftergood, Director of the
Federation of American Scientists (FAS) Project on Government Secrecy
, presented a lecture on “Secrecy and Democracy: Paradox and Policy”
at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. The lecture is part of a semester-long series of lectures, films and other programs
on the theme of “Secrets in a Democracy.”

Sunlight Labs Announces Nationwide Government Data Hackathon


The Sunlight Foundation’s Sunlight Labs has joined with Google, Mozilla, Redhat and Fedora
to announce the Great American Hackathon from December 12-13.
The goal of the event is to code projects that foster government transparency.

I. OpenTheGovernment.org Joins Letter Protesting Secrecy, Urging Openness, in IP Pact Negotiations


On November 5, OpenTheGovernment.org joined several coalition partners in sending a
letter to the President
raising concerns about the lack of transparency and openness surrounding the negotiations on a new Anti-Counterfeiting
Trade Agreement (“ACTA”). The letter takes issue with the Administration’s refusal to make sections of the treaty proposed by
the United States available for public review. The letter also notes that meaningful public discussion has further been shut down
by the Administration’s insistence that the few representatives of public interest
groups that have been granted access to the proposals sign non-disclosure agreements.
The importance of intellectual property policy and the changing nature of technology demand thoughtful, measured initiatives
that adequately account for all of the interests that would be affected. The letter asks the Administration to make
ACTA’s provisions, particularly those drafted by the United States, publicly available for open discussions prior
to any commitment to ACTA by the U.S. government.

II. Advocates Ask Congress to Ensure Healthcare Advisory Panels are Transparent


A diverse group of patient, labor, consumer, public interest, scientific integrity, taxpayer, journalism, and transparency
advocates, including OpenTheGovernment.org and several coalition partners, joined in sending a
letter to Congressional leaders
requesting they ensure that any advisory panels created by the new health care legislation operate in the public view.
The letter points out that effective health care plan depends on advisory committees that give fact-based guidance and operate
in full view of the American public, and lists specific requirements to protect against conflict of interest and secrecy that should be
included in the legislation.

III. PATRIOT Act Extension Moves in the House


On November 5, the House Judiciary Committee reported out H.R. 3845, the PATRIOT Act Amendments Act.
Openness and civil liberties advocates are pleased that the House bill includes stricter standards that the government must meet to win approval for controversial law enforcement activities.
The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) updated its
side-by-side chart
comparing current law to H.R. 3845, as approved by the Committee, and the Senate bill,
S. 1692
, as approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in early October. On November 9, the Administration issued a
Statement of Administration Position (SAP)
supporting the Senate version of the bill. We continue to urge Congress to use the reauthorization as an opportunity
reign in government secrecy and protect citizens from unwarranted intrusions into their privacy.

IV. Archivist Confirmed


On November 6, the Senate approved the nomination of David Ferriero
to be Archivist of the United States. He was sworn into office on November 13. As Archivist, Mr. Ferriero has the opportunity to provide crucial leadership
for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to lead the federal government in electronic records management government-wide as
the independent agency also works to preserve the past. OpenTheGovernment.org looks forward to working with him to help him achieve these goals.

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