Steering Committee Notes, 1/21/09

 

Participants:
Steven Aftergood (conference), Mary Alice Baish, Tom Blanton, Lucy Dalglish (conference), Conrad Martin, Patrice McDermott, and Amy Fuller

Summary:

 

  • Financial Report
    • Year End Financial Report – It was noted that while OpenTheGovernment.org did a good job of keeping expenses down, the organization missed the fundraising goal by $92,000 and had to go into reserves in 2008. Overall, the organization’s primary funders are in good financial shape and continue to exhibit interest in the issue.
    • Fundraising
      • Grant from Sunlight- Received $28,000 for project/ report with the Center for Democracy and Technology on the 10 most wanted government documents/ data sets
      • Approved to resubmit requests by CS Fund and Carnegie
      • Funder’s Briefing in New York-The Steering Committee suggested journalists to include on the panel
      • Bailout Watch
        • The project is a loosely coordinated effort by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS), OMB Watch, and OpenTheGovernment.org to improve the community’s response to the financial bailout. OMB Watch acts as the coordinator; EPI and CEPR provide analysis and commentary, from both in-house and from the academic community; POGO and TCS provide investigate reporting; and OpenTheGovernment.org acts as the project’s web hub. There is also a larger set of groups from across the political spectrum that has been approached about occasionally contributing to the project, (sign onto letters/ statement of principles) but have no permanent ownership in the project.
        • OpenTheGovernment.org’s current Bailout Transparency clearinghouse will become the basis of the new hub. The hub will allow strategic duplication of work and serve as a primary source of information for policymakers, the media, and the public. In addition to the actions, resources, reports, and news on the current site, the hub will host a forum where experts can discuss bailout issues and a section where bailout related FOIA requests and responses can be posted. Users will be able to subscribe to an RSS feed for the site, or for RSS feeds from any of the partner organizations. The site will also have a section only partner organizations can access for planning purposes, and where we will keep an expert directory. OpenTheGovernment.org is currently circulating an RFP for the project.
      • Funding – The project is supported by grants from Ford and OSI through OMB Watch
  • Discussion
    • DC FOIC proposal by Tom Susman – The focus of the coalition is on local issues. OpenTheGovernment.org will share expertise and coalition building experience with the new organization.
    • OGIS Head – NARA has created a job description and expects to have money in hand in March.
    • Legislative Priorities – The Steering Committee suggested that OpenTheGovernment.org institutionalize a way to draw up the coalition’s priorities at the start of every new Congress using a wiki-like interactive technology. Once a comprehensive list is developed, the coalition should pull together a Policy Working Group to discuss overlap/ disagreement and develop a top priorities list. The coalition should then host a briefing for organizations and Hill staff on the identified priorities about ten days before Sunshine Week.
    • The Steering Committee will discuss the coalition’s next strategic plan in April, after the new administration has made the majority of its appointments and the policy environment is clearer.
    • Next Archivist – OpenTheGovernment.org does not need to take a position at this time, but will support the appointment of a leader with vision and political ability to overcome the beauracracy.
    • Accountability and the Bush Administration – In the debate over whether or not there should be an investigation into many of the scandals of the Bush Administration, OpenTheGovernment.org should affirm that our interests are in openness, transparency and accountability and that, whatever processes may take place, advancing and protecting those concerns are our goal.
    • Cost cutting – There is plenty of money budgeted for events and consultation that can be moved to operating expenses in the case of an emergency. OpenTheGovernment.org will also perform an analysis of the core operating budget to see if any money can be saved by moving the coalition to another location, etc.
    • Other – Nothing in the coalition’s governing documents limit the coalition staff size. The coalition should be mindful, however, and at all costs avoid growing to a size or undertaking activities where they begin to compete with coalition members.

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