Steering Committee Notes, 10/22/08

 

Participants:

Steven Aftergood (conference), Gary Bass, Tom Blanton, Danielle Brian (conference), Lucy Dalglish, Charles Davis (conference), Leslie Harris (conference), Michael Osterlenk, Reece Rushing, Patrice McDermott, and Amy Fuller

Summary:
The coalition needs to increase fundraising to meet future needs, a situation that is complicated by the current economic crisis. The coalition must be more creative with its fundraising and needs to act now to take advantage of the growing interest in transparency issues generated by the elections. The proposed budget was approved, with some adjustment to the amount of funding carried over. Going forward, the coalition’s three priorities are: setting up a funders briefing in the near future; following up on the transparency in the financial bailout issue; and working to develop an agenda for legislation in the 111th Congress.

Notes follow.

1)Financial Report
a)Currently, the coalition is spending more money than it is currently raising
2)2009 Budget and Fundraising Plan
a)Proposals sent
i)EFA- for March 2009 consideration
ii)OSI – Patrice has sent in a proposal to fund an Openness Summit for our state-based partners (to be held in Fall ’09, probably at the Maritime Institute) and is reaching out to our partners to get a sense of what they would want to accomplish at such a meeting and what as follow-on work. This type of work possibly could be translated into a multi-year grant.
b) Impact of the market on the coalition’s fundraising Coalition is slated to spend carry-over money and will be left with very little after 2009 unless funding improves; this is a major problem if the market situation causes funders to pull back in 2010. Steering Committee members have heard from funders that they will be less likely to commit multi-year grants and to accept proposals from groups they do not already fund
(a) Many of the coalition’s likely funders were fairly protected against the downturn; since the longer shots are even less likely, the coalition should ask for more from likely funders that are in good financial shape
(b) Economic situation reinforces the point that the funders briefing should be sooner rather than later.
c) Expenses
i) Research budget is higher than we expect to expend, but left as a cushion
ii) Sunshine Week launch amount has been raised to reflect increased costs seen last year
(1) We have had complaints from broadcasters about the quality of the video in past years, but upgrading it would be expensive. C-SPAN will not commit to providing coverage.
(2) The majority of the Sunshine Week budget is for use of the National Press Club. Opportunities to use alternate venues are being explored.
iii) Funding for new technology outreach has been deleted; most of the initiatives we are exploring (i.e., blogging) are more an issue of staff time than investing in technology
iv) Funding was added at the Steering Committee’s request last year for coalition promotion (e.g., fliers, packets)
v) Funding is provided for web site re-design
vi) Core operating expenses and personnel are about equal to the amount of funding coming in, so the coalition should look for ways to fund projects.
d) The Steering Committee approved the budget with the proviso that it should be re-assessed at the next meeting and with a slight adjustment to the amount of funding carried over.
3) Updates
a) Research
i) Reports – Secrecy Report Card 2008
(1) The 2008 Secrecy Report Card was given to Pete Yost of the AP as an exclusive; over 70 outlets ran the story. About a dozen media outlets, including US News and World Report, also covered the report and Patrice gave several radio interviews. Editorial boards at seven mid to small size papers cited the report in op-eds. The report was also picked up by several blogs, thanks in large part to posts by our coalition partners. A link to the coverage is available on OpenTheGovernment.org’s home page. OpenTheGovernment.org will compile a short report describing the impact of the report for funders.
(2) Next year’s report needs to cover more topics and should serve as a check on whether or not the new Administration is living up to its promises of openness.
b) Policy Work
i) Letter circulated- Opposing Secrecy in Financial Industry Bailout (a) The coalition needs to do a lot of follow-up work on the bailout issue, especially since it is put in the hands of the Treasury, a department we know is bad on basic transparency issues like FOIA.
ii) Amicus Brief signed on – Herring v. US
(1) Case challenges arrests based on incorrect government information; filed by EPIC; recently heard by the Supreme Court; there was no clear indication of how the Justices would rule
iii) Smithsonian
(1) Patrice continues to work with Smithsonian and Senate staff on the issue
c) Policy work with Congress
i) Testimony
(1) "Implementation on the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS)"
(a) The hearing was to take the Administration to task for its refusal to support OGIS. Come March the National Archives will have $1 million dollars to begin setting up the office.
(2) "Restoring the Rule of Law"
(a) No discussion. The written testimony focused on initiatives to make openness the government’s default position for information and to make current transparency and accountability structures work for the public.
ii) Legislative Update
(1) It is a priority for OpenTheGovernment.org to look at legislation passed during the 110th Congress and prepare an analysis of why the legislation is not good enough and how it should be improved.
(a) The coalition will post talking points on its website in regards to:
(i) Over-classification
(ii) Controlled unclassified information
(iii) State secrets
(iv) Contracting legislation (including the Coburn/ Obama bill)
4) Discussion
a) 21st Century Right To Know Initiative
i) Sean Moulton has posted the new draft of the report that came out of the retreat at the Maritime Institute at: http://a.nnotate.com/php/pdfnotate.php?d=2008-10-15&c=WP3M2Qsq. Users can comment on the new draft; Organizations and individuals can also log onto http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/survey.zgi?p=WEB228DWTM8NTQ to endorse sections of the report.
ii) The report will not be released until after the election. The Steering Committee discussed the proper forum for releasing the report
b) Website and Survey Updates
i) The survey was sent to OpenTheGovernment.org’s list of 3,000 members and was posted on its website for about a month, but garnered only 29 responses. OpenTheGovernment.org will explore directing users to the survey using a splash page to our website and offering something to people who complete the survey.

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