Steering Committee Notes, 1/19/11

Steering Committee Meeting
POGO – 1100 G Street, NW, Suite 900
January 19, 2011 – 12 – 2 pm


Steven Aftergood, Mary Alice Baish, Gary Bass, Danielle Brian, Lucy Dalglish, Robert Leger (on phone), Conrad Martin, Michael Ostrolenk, Reece Rushing (on phone), David Sobel, Anne Weismann, Patrice McDermott, and Amy Bennett.

The next meeting of the Steering Committee will be Wednesday, 27 April, from 2 – 4pm ET, followed by a party to thank Gary Bass and Tom Blanton and to welcome Danielle Brian as the new chair of the committee.  The meeting & party will be at 2040 S Street NW.

  • Endowments are up over last year, but foundations continue to be extremely conservative and grant-making is still well-below what it was before the economic crisis.
  • The coalition’s financials are holding steady, and there is a healthy cash reserve. Staff needs to continue to aggressively seek additional funds.
  • The coalition should consider inviting funders to the Sunshine Week webcast and holding a funder’s briefing the following day.
  • The coalition continues to spend less than budgeted. The 2011 budget as approved in October 2010 is balanced in terms of planned expenditures and anticipated grants if the Assistant position (including benefits) is excluded.
  • The Steering Committee suggests the coalition change the request for funding to hire an Assistant to creating a new Internship Program.  Members were asked to send information on intern sites to Patrice McDermott.

Discussion of Governance Structure and Steering Committee Issues

  • The current governance structure is extremely vague, leaving it unclear how the coalition is composed. Among the questions left unanswered by the current document are: who is a Member (organizations, individuals, or both); and who do Steering Committee members represent (themselves or their organization)?
  • Some vagueness in the structure in beneficial because the coalition serves different purposes for various constituencies. The document does need some clarification, however. The Steering Committee asks the structure be modified to streamline current distinctions between Members and Partners, to eliminate references to voting on Steering Committee members, and to require more rotation of Steering Committee members (including who serves as the Chair). A new version of the structure will be emailed to the Steering Committee and discussed via email prior to the next meeting.
  • Discussion of the coalition as a legal entity was tabled for the next meeting, pending review of the revised document. At issue is the coalition’s ability to sign-on to amicus briefs or testify in Congress.
  • Nominations for new Steering Committee members should be emailed to Patrice prior to the next meeting. The Committee will choose new members at that meeting.
  • The Co-Chair structure was dropped to streamline the work load. The Committee feels the coalition is effectively bridging the gap between the national security and domestic openness communities, and will continue to do so with only one Chair. It was suggested that for the last year of the Chair’s term, the Steering Committee should appoint a Chair-designate to help smooth out the transitions. Danielle Brian was nominated, and unanimously affirmed, the new Chair of the coalition.
  • The April Steering Committee meeting will be held in the late afternoon, and include a small reception thanking Gary Bass and Tom Blanton for their work as Co-Chairs, and welcoming Danielle Brian to the position.

Sunshine Week Programs

  •’s event will be on Friday, March 18th from noon to 1:30 at the Center for American Progress (CAP). The theme for this year’s event is “The Future of Open Government,” or “Open Government Going Forward.” The event will feature two panels: one on policy, the other on technology. Topics for the policy panel would include: proactive disclosures, access to government records including social media, and other ways to make information more easily available; possible panelists include: the Archivist, David Ferriero, Steve Croley, and Gary Bass. The technology panel would discuss how technology is being used to make government information usable and relevant to people’s lives; possible panelists include: Vivek Kundra, Sheila Krumholz (Center for Responsive Politics), a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity or ProPublica, and either Bill Allison or Tom Lee of Sunlight.
  • The annual National Freedom of Information Day Conference will be held Wednesday, March 16 at the Newseum. The President is likely to be invited. If he attends, there will be an opportunity for questions.
  • The Washington College of Law at American University’s Collaboration on Government Secrecy will hold its annual FOI Day celebration on Monday, March 14th.

2011 Strategic Plan

  • Promotion of adoption of the transparency floor should be added to the section on FOIA priorities, and the document should be flipped to emphasize future work over past accomplishments.

Quarterly and Year-End Reports


  • Mary Alice Baish has stepped down from the Steering Committee. She is joining the government as the Assistant Public Printer, Superintendent of Documents, for the US Government Printing Office.
  • AT&T vs. FCC – Almost all of the Supreme Court Justices seemed skeptical of AA&T’s claim to “personal privacy” rights for corporations in government records; Justice Alito appeared to be the only one willing to give credence to the argument. In one troubling exchange, however, Anthony Yang, an assistant U.S. solicitor general, rebuffed Justice Scalia’s argument that, as supported by past Supreme Court decisions, the government should always use the narrowest interpretation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemptions.
  • Audit the Fed Campaign – Bills to perform a full audit of the Federal Reserve will be re-introduced in February.
  • New website – wireframes of the new site –  still in development and not populated with correct information currently – were circulated.



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