Steering Committee Notes, 4/22/09

 

Participants:
Bill Allison, Gary Bass, Danielle Brian, Conrad Martin, Patrice McDermott, Michael Ostrolenk, Reece Rushing, David Sobel, and Amy Fuller

Summary:

  • Financial Report – This year’s budget is austere. Although the coalition will be able to continue to fulfill its primary functions, we will not be able to do all of the activities planned for 2009. For example, unless the coalition receives additional funding, we will not be able to hold an Openness Summit to bring in our state-based partners.
  • Discussion
    • Bailout Watch – On Monday, April 20th, OpenTheGovernment.org launched BailoutWatch.net, the central web hub for bailout-related information created by as part of the Bailout Watch project, and is exploring integrating the Expert Exchange into these forums by posting papers, statements, etc, developed for the forum in the section.
    • Recovery.gov – The Coalition for an Accountable Recovery (CAR) submitted comments on the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) memo, "Updated Implementing Guidance for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009." The comments call for centralized reporting, and available via public feeds; the comments also request everyone receiving more than $25,000 of recovery funds be required to report.
      The next debate over Recovery will be over defining benchmarks and assessing "success." Given the partisan split on recovery, the coalition must be careful to reach out to and engage center-right groups on these issues.
    • 100 Day Review – Specific areas of concern, and hope, are discussed below. On some of these issues, the coalition should create an on-going assessment; on other issues, the coalition should work with our partners to draft sign-on letters that push the Administration to improve implementation.
      • Areas of Concern
        • Litigation over State Secrets and FOIA – In quite a few cases, the Obama Administration has continued to press the Bush Administration’s claim of state secrets to have a case thrown out of court.
        • Whistleblowers – The White House has been disappointing on the issue of whistleblower protections. Of particular concern is the Administration is not sure whose job portfolio should include the policy issue. The coalition needs to push on this issue.
        • Office of Administration – In a break from past Administrations, the Bush Administration decided that the Office of Administration was not subject to FOIA, and would not respond to any requests. EFF has submitted a FOIA request to the Obama Administration’s Office of Administration, but has received no response.
      • Areas of Hope
        • Open Government Directive – Although the process has not been great (no participatory website, poor agency participation), the Administration is clearly listening to suggestions from the community. We should withhold judgment until we see the content.
        • Regulatory Reform/E-Rulemaking – The recommendations are moving through the regular notice and comment period. The process has been more productive and transparent than the Open Government Directive process.
        • Email issue – Although it is not clear how the issue will be resolved, or how good the resolution will be, it appears the Obama Administration at least is keeping White House email records going forward, and is willing to consider some kind of release of past records.
        • Recovery.gov – As discussed above, although the site and system is not perfect, the Administration has the will to make it transparent.

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