The public’s right to know is at the heart of the United States’ founding, enabling public debate and informed dissent. The federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reflects this tenet by giving any member of the public the ability to ask for a copy of a government record, and giving them the ability to ask a Court to intervene if the government refuses to comply with the law.
Since the FOIA was begrudgingly signed into law 48 years ago, it has been used to improve our understanding of what the federal government is doing and why it has made certain choices. The FOIA also has been a critical tool for helping to uncover waste, fraud, abuse and illegality in the federal government.
Currently, however, the FOIA is far from a perfect tool to get timely access to government records. To address some of the problems the public has using the law, Senator Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Cornyn (R-TX) recently introduced The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014. The reforms in the bill include making it easier for the Office of Government Information Services — created in 2007 to help mediate disputes between requesters and the government — to share its recommendations for making the FOIA process work better directly with Congress and the President. Critically, the bill would also put a much-needed check on the government’s ability to withhold inter- and intra-agency records.
Given the importance of the FOIA to creating public accountability, and that we all have a stake in creating a more open government, we want to hear your ideas on the legislation. Our friends at The OpenGov Foundation have made it easy for you to comment, ask questions about, and suggest changes directly to the bill with Madison, a free online public policymaking platform.
“We’re excited to support this outstanding initiative to create effective policy in an open, collaborative manner,” said Seamus Kraft, Co-Founder and Executive Director of The OpenGov Foundation. ”This is an incredible opportunity for lawmakers and citizens on both sides of the aisle to work together to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act and enhance federal government accountability. Madison is built to accomplish FOIA reform the right way: inclusively on the Internet.”
How you can help deliver a stronger FOIA with Madison:
3. Add your general comments and questions in the “Comments” box, or selected specific lines of text you think should change or that you have questions about.
You can also interact with other users’ comments, and vote to support or oppose the bill by clicking the buttons at the top of the document.
Madison is free and open source software that reinvents government for the Internet Age. Madison 1.0 powered the American people’s successful defense of Internet freedom from Congressional threats. It delivered the first crowdsourced bill in the history of the U.S. Congress. And now, the non-partisan, non-profit OpenGov Foundation has released Madison 2.0. Currently in beta, Madison 2.0 is custom-built to connect the decision-makers in our democracy to the people they serve.
Click here if you want Madison and The OpenGov Foundation to help you get better results from your local, state or federal government.
About The OpenGov Foundation
The OpenGov Foundation is a small non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)3 working to open government. That means making it easier for people to access and use as much government information as possible. We believe innovative technology can help deliver a government that listens, works for everyday citizens, and actually delivers smart solutions to our shared challenges.