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Sunlight Foundation
Washington, DC

The Sunlight Foundation uses technology and ideas to make government transparent and accountable.

The Sunlight Foundation is:

A think-tank that develops and encourages new policies inside the government to make it more open and transparent.
A campaign to engage citizens in demanding the policies that will open government and hold their elected officials accountable for being transparent.
An investigative organization that uses the data we uncover to demonstrate why we need new policies that free government data.
A grant-giving institution that provides resources to organizations using technology to further our mission and create community
An open source technology community that revolves around the Sunlight Foundation’s core mission

Sunlight Foundation is not verified as a 501(c)3 organization.

Latest News

Nov 20, 2014

A screenshot of the new Sunlight Foundation tools page with new filtering options including retired projects.
Tools page.

Here at Sunlight, we love building tools. Tools that empower you to investigate government activity, track influence and keep those in power accountable. We have a great time making this stuff and it's a central part of our mission. So it may not be a surprise that the page listing our projects is one of the most visited pages on our site. Today we're unveiling a new design to help you find something that fits your interests, see our featured projects and look back at our previous work.

The first thing we hope you notice when you visit the new tools page is that there are two tabs to choose how you browse our work. The default view is "Featured" projects to showcase what we're most focused on right now. There's also a "Filtered" view to narrow the list of projects to those you're interested in.

A screenshot of the filtering options on the new Sunlight Foundation tools page.
Filtered view.

For example, if you're only interested in projects focused on policy at the state level, it will direct you to the the Open States project. Each project page is now a shareable permalink with a description, screenshots, an embedded video, API status, bulk download link and a sidebar linking to the Github source code or other relevant material if it's available. A special thank you to Nick Brethauer, Jeremy Carbaugh and Caitlin Weber who helped build the new tools page. Let us know if you have any questions!

Nov 18, 2014

Sen. Jon Tester. Photo credit: Nicko Margolies/Sunlight Foundation

Today, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., introduced the Sunlight for Unaccountable Nonprofits Act (The SUN Act). Not only are we at the Sunlight Foundation more than a little bit in love with the name, but we also love what the bill does. The SUN Act would at long last require that already public information about nonprofits be put online in a searchable, usable format. It would also require disclosure of large donors to nonprofits that elect to engage in political activities.

The SUN Act brings political spending out of the shadows. The bill ensures that tax-exempt organizations’ tax returns — their 990s — are made public, online and in a searchable format. These provisions are a legislative no-brainer. The information is already supposed to be made public, either by the IRS or, upon request, by the organizations themselves. In reality, the information is far from accessible. The IRS charges a hefty fee for data from 990s, which it provides in a non-searchable DVD format. Nonprofits often make requesters jump through hoops before disclosing their 990s. And even when they put the forms online (as Sunlight does here) the information is not in a usable format. The SUN Act embraces our mantra that public means online.

The bill would also require so-called social welfare organizations that specifically elect to engage in political activities to disclose donors who give $5,000 or more to the organization. Opponents of transparent, accountable government will cry foul, claiming the disclosure requirements will “chill speech.” But the provisions are narrowly tailored so that they in no way prevent political speech by nonprofits. Instead, the bill addresses the rampant abuse of the tax code since the Citizens United decision opened the door to ostensibly independent political spending by nonprofits. If a social welfare organization does not participate in politics, its donors can remain anonymous. On the other hand, a tax-exempt nonprofit that elects to spend its resources on politics must disclose its donors. An organization that wants to both serve the public interest and engage in politics also has the option of bifurcating its activities, disclosing only donors whose contributions are being used influence elections. By limiting disclosure to only those donors who give more than $5,000 to a politically active organization, the bill allows small donors to continue to remain anonymous while providing transparency and accountability where it is needed most.

Shadowy nonprofits spent at least $145 million on this year’s midterms. The public has the right to know who is behind that spending, but by exploiting the law, nonprofits engaged in election-related activities evade donor disclosure requirements that apply to traditional political organizations. The headline of a recent Washington Post editorial didn’t mince words, stating, “Undisclosed spending in elections threaten American democracy.” The piece cites evidence from a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice that found that in 10 of the 11 tightest Senate races, dark money groups accounted for 71 percent of the spending on behalf of the winning candidate — with the 11th race headed for a runoff.

The voters in those states don’t know who provided the big bucks to help elect their senators, but you can bet the senators themselves know exactly who to thank for helping them secure their jobs. The SUN Act brings reality back to IRS disclosures and accountability back to government, recognizing that a functioning democracy requires informed voters.

Nov 18, 2014

A heavily redacted FOIA request. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is slated to vote on Sens. Patrick Leahy and John Cornyn's FOIA Improvement Act on Thursday. It had been scheduled for last week, but Leahy moved it: "Because of scheduling challenges in the Senate this Thursday, we are likely to hold the Committee markup off the floor this week. This FOIA bill should be debated in full public view, and so we will hold over our legislation this week so all members and the public can participate in this important debate."

We've just gotten a hold of the manager's amendment — that is, an amendment that collects and addresses several changes offered by members of the committee — that changes how the FOIA Improvement Act looks.

  1. We lost the public interest balancing test for b(5). B(5) refers to an exemption used to withhold disclosure, and is often used to protect internal work that people wouldn't otherwise be entitled to through typical information collection processes — specifically, civil discovery. This is the most significant change, and it's definitely a disappointment. However, we've kept the 25-year time limit to b(5), which is a huge improvement over the status quo.
  2. The fee fix, which blocked an agency from collecting fees in certain contexts, has a limit if the request would produce more than 50,000 responsive records, given that the agency tried to contact the requester to narrow it. 50,000 is a big number, so we can live with that.
  3. There's a new GAO report on backlog reduction methods. GAO also must audit three or more agencies every two years.
  4. OMB has to build a centralized portal.

Even if not as grand as its original incarnation, the bill, post-manager's-amendment, is a much-needed, strong reform of one of America's most important transparency laws. The bill is here, and the senators' brief write-up on it is here.

The good news, amendments aside, is that wherever there may be compromises in this bill, it's not a bill built on sacrifices. In other words, everyone agrees a step forward is necessary, but not everyone agrees how big a step. What that means for the FOIA Improvement Act is that even after losing some of its provisions, the public is still gaining something significant.

Here's my broad review of the FOIA Improvement Act from a previous post:

  1. It establishes a stronger presumption of openness, prohibiting withholding of information only if "the agency foresees that disclosure would harm an interest" protected by an exemption. This means that the mere plausibility that an exemption could apply isn’t enough — an argument the public interest has been forced into for far too long.
  2. [Note: This portion is expected to be removed by manager's amendment:] It adds public interest to the b(5) exemption, which is an obtuse provision of FOIA that is abused nearly as much as it’s used. Indeed, some call it the “Withhold It Because You Want To” Exemption. It is
  3. It puts a 25-year time limit on the b(5) exemption (!). This is huge, for all of the reasons described in bullet two above, but let’s add more flavor: According to the National Security Archive, b(5) was “used 81,752 times in 2013,” meaning it was “applied to 12 percent of 2013’s processed requests.” Its usage is at an all-time high, and it is frequently summoned in national security contexts. This means that, for instance, the CIA couldn't block the release of internal reports on the Bay of Pigs invasion simply because the decades-old document is still marked "draft."

Nov 18, 2014

Screenshot from an American Petroleum Institute ad with the text "Tell Senators Chris Coons and Tom Carper: Approve Keystone XL"
Image credit: American Petroleum Institute/YouTube

The suspense around today's scheduled Senate vote on the Keystone XL pipeline isn't over whether the controversial proposed 1,100-mile conduit for carrying the product of Canadian oil sands to Texas refineries. That, after all, will be up to President Barack Obama, since Keystone XL supporters don't have the votes to override a veto.

And it isn't about who will control the Senate: Whether Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, the pro-oil business Democrat who engineered the attempt to force Obama's hand on Keystone to save her own seat, wins or loses in her state's Dec. 4 runoff, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky becomes majority leader a month later.

No, the real intrigue is the competition among the deep-pocketed special interests arrayed on both sides of the debate, all of whom have the potential to entice — or threaten — senators planning to run for re-election in the future.

A handful of centrist Democrats will determine whether the Keystone measure will land on Obama's desk.

One who recently announced his support for the Landrieu bill calling for the pipeline to be green-lit is Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, who is up for re-election in 2016 and just saw nouveau super PAC investor Tom Steyer, who has made reducing carbon emissions a rallying cry, spend $7.2 million in his state in a failed effort to get Democratic Sen. Mark Udall re-elected. Perhaps coincidentally, Bennet last year received two contributions of $1,000 each from the lobbying firm that has been representing Saskatchewan, the Canadian province doing much of the lobbying for Keystone XL.

Steyer, meanwhile, became the year's largest donor to super PACs, spending $73 million, in his effort to support candidates sympathetic to his views on climate change. His return on investment, however, was a less-than-impressive 32 percent. Even so, Steyer promised to keep hitting "climate deniers" in 2016.

The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) had similar luck this year, but it wasn't for want of effort. The green group spent at least $17.5 million on elections through its super PAC and dark money operations. The North Carolina Senate battle was its biggest investment at more than $5 million. But the LCV's two arms spent almost $3 million in Colorado against Republican Cory Gardner.

On the other side of the Keystone XL debate are another set of major political players.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), to take one example, is a prolific campaign donor (Landrieu has been their top recipient) and a savvy player of the grassroots influence game.

API has been pressuring on the fence legislators to approve the pipeline with a series of national TV ads, like this one urging viewers in Delaware to "Tell Senators Coons and Carper: approve Keystone XL." Sen. Tom Carper, the state's senior Democratic senator, already announced his support for Landrieu's measure greenlighting the pipeline. The Hill reports that his fellow Delaware Democrat, Sen. Chris Coons, remains on the fence, along with Sen. Angus King, I-Maine.

Recently, building trades unions have chartered unfamiliar territory in support of the pipeline. Laborers' unions gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to a super PAC dedicated to electing centrist candidates. That PAC, Defending Main Street, spent nearly $500,000 to re-elect Republican Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho, a chief agitator for construction of the oil pipeline.

LIUNA, the Laborers' International Union, recently upped its campaign profile, launching a new super PAC in September and dishing out $475,000 to the Democratic House Majority PAC.

Lobbyists for Canadian interests behind the pipeline have also been active givers to key voting blocs.

South Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, for example, a Democrat who's in favor of the pipeline, met with lobbyists from lobbying firm Nelson Mullins and got a $1,000 campaign contribution in April. The South Carolina-based lobbying shop has reported more than $4 million in income this year for its efforts to influence Congress for a wide ranging list of clients, including the Canadian oil provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the International Music Products Association and the auto equipment maker TRW, according to and Foreign Influence Explorer. Its political largesse has extended to dozens of state and federal candidates.

Saskatchewan is just one facet of an inside battle that has tilted decidedly in Keystone's favor. Pro-pipeline groups have dominated the inside game, far outpacing anti-pipeline activists in both lobbying expenses and active lobbyists.

A Sunlight Foundation study earlier this year, found that 10 of the top 12 groups lobbying on Keystone were in support of the pipeline, including each of the top five.

Obama has been lukewarm about the project and his signature is dubious. Pro-Keystoners don't appear to have the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.

Even if the latest pipeline push stalls, however, it isn't likely to put a halt to the multimillion dollar influence battle that's raged on and off Capitol Hill for the past six years.

Ironically, one place it's not raging is Louisiana.

If the Senate iteration of the pro-Keystone bill clears the 60 vote cloture threshold — a vote is scheduled Tuesday — it will be thanks in large part to the efforts of the embattled Landrieu. Her political career is hanging on by a thread as she awaits a runoff election against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, who introduced the House bill okaying Keystone. Energy companies have largely stood on the sidelines in that race. Both candidates are close allies and campaign beneficiaries of oil and gas interests.

Nov 17, 2014

Between 2007 and 2012, 200 of America’s most politically active corporations spent a combined $5.8 billion on federal lobbying and campaign contributions. A year-long analysis by the Sunlight Foundation suggests, however, that what they gave pales compared to what those same corporations got: $4.4 trillion in federal business and support.

That figure, more than the $4.3 trillion the federal government paid the nation’s 50 million Social Security recipients over the same period, is the result of an unprecedented effort to quantify the less-examined side of the campaign finance equation: Do political donors get something in return for what they give?

Four years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court suggested the answer to that question was no. Corporate spending to influence federal elections would not “give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption,” the majority wrote in the landmark Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision.

Sunlight decided to test that premise by examining influence and its potential results on federal decision makers over six years, three before the 2010 Citizens United decision and three after.

We focused on the records of 200 for-profit corporations, all of which had active political action committees and lobbyists in the 2008, 2010 and 2012 election cycles — and were among the top donors to campaign committees registered with the Federal Election Commission. Their investment in politics was enormous. There were 20,500 paying lobbying clients over the six years we examined; the 200 companies we tracked accounted for a whopping 26 percent of the total spent. On average, their PACs, employees and their family members made campaign contributions to 144 sitting members of Congress each cycle.

On average, 144 sitting members of Congress received money from the Fixed Fortune 200 each cycle. Graphic credit: The Sunlight Foundation

After examining 14 million records, including data on campaign contributions, lobbying expenditures, federal budget allocations and spending, we found that, on average, for every dollar spent on influencing politics, the nation’s most politically active corporations received $760 from the government. The $4.4 trillion total represents two-thirds of the $6.5 trillion that individual taxpayers paid into the federal treasury.

Welcome to the world of "Fixed Fortunes," a seemingly closed universe where the most persistent and savvy political players not so mysteriously have the ability to attract federal dollars regardless of who is running Washington.

Political change, permanent interests

During the six years we studied, newly elected Democratic majorities took control in the House and Senate. Two years later, the White House shifted from Republican to Democratic control, and two years after that the GOP came back to take the House. The collapse of the housing bubble in 2007 led to massive bailout efforts by the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board, two massive stimulus bills and the loss of more than eight million jobs. Congress passed laws that overhauled health care insurance and financial industry regulation. Troops surged in Afghanistan and withdrew from Iraq. There were 16 separate “continuing resolutions” to fund the government, a debt ceiling standoff that caused a downgrade in the nation’s credit rating and a “super committee” to wrestle with the federal budget. As middle class Americans lost ground, the Fixed Fortune 200 got what they needed.

What they needed included loans that helped automakers and banks survive the recent recession while many homeowners went under. It included full funding and expansion of federal programs started in the 1930s that, year after year, decade after decade, help prop up prices for agribusinesses and secure trade deals for our biggest manufacturers. It included budget busting emergency measures that funneled extra dollars to everything from defense contractors to public utility companies to financial industry giants. The record suggests that the money corporations spend on political campaigns and Washington lobbying firms is not an unwise investment.

The Fixed Fortune 200 come from a wide range of industries. There are a host of familiar names among them, like Ford Motor Company, McDonald’s and Bank of America, as well as some less famous, like MacAndrews & Forbes, the Carlyle Group and Cerberus Capital Management. (For the complete list, including what they gave and what they got, click here.) There are retailers and investment banks, construction and telecommunications firms, health insurers and gun makers, entertainment conglomerates, banks and pharmaceutical manufacturers, among others.

Out of 20,500 paying lobbying clients, the Fixed Fortune 200 accounted for a whopping 26 percent of the total spent. Graphic credit: The Sunlight Foundation

Overall, the Fixed Fortune 200’s PACs, employees and their family members gave $597 million to political committees and disclosed spending $5.2 billion on lobbying. They make this enormous investment in politics in large part because their businesses are inextricably entwined with government decisions — including spending decisions.

Government as business partner

For example, the federal government issued contracts to purchase goods and services that totaled a little more that $3 trillion during the period; companies among the top 200 corporate political givers won $1 trillion of that, a third of the total. The Treasury Department managed $410 billion in loans and other assistance issued under the Troubled Asset Relief Program, created by Congress to cope with the 2008 financial crisis; of that amount, $298 million, about 73 percent, went to 16 firms among the Fixed Fortune 200. When the Federal Reserve took extraordinary measures in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, it funneled nearly $2.8 trillion through 29 Fixed Fortune firms. The companies that participated the most in politics got huge returns.

Of the 200 corporations we examined, we could sum the financial rewards for 179. Of those, 138 received more from the federal government than they spent on politics, 102 of them received more than 10 times what they spent on politics, and 29 received 1,000 times or more from the federal government than they invested in lobbyists or contributed to political committees via their employees, their family members and their PACs.

As for the other 21 companies on our list, while we could not quantify the financial benefits that some received, we were able to identify them. Some examples:

  • Arch Coal lists the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the government corporation that’s the largest public electricity producer, as one of its three biggest customers. TVA does not release data on its coal purchases.
  • Forest City Enterprises does not appear as a landlord in the Government Services Agency’s database of federal rental agreements, though its annual report notes that the U.S. government is the third-biggest customer for its pricey New York City office space.
  • Occidental Petroleum has leases on federal land to extract natural gas, but the government does not release information on how much that gas is withdrawn or how much it is worth.
  • And while the government has so far refused to release information on what retailers get the most purchases via food stamps, Wal-Mart went so far as to acknowledge in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that reductions in the now $78 billion-a-year Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — or food stamps — could have a significant impact on the company’s earnings, which totaled $476 billion in its most recent fiscal year.

Of the 200 companies analyzed for Fixed Fortunes, 28 are in what the money in politics research organization the Center for Responsive Politics classifies as the communications and electronics sector, 21 in healthcare, 13 in defense and aerospace, 13 agribusinesses, 11 in energy and natural resources, and 7 in transportation. The biggest sector, accounting for 48 of the 200, was finance, insurance and real estate, which is consistently the largest source of campaign funds for politicians cycle after cycle. Congress and the executive branch have paid particular attention to the industry, approving hundreds of billions in aid to help it weather the financial crisis. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve advanced trillions in credit, which the nation’s central bank hoped would trickle down through the rest of the economy.

Companies with the biggest returns on their political investments include three foreign financial service and banking firms, UBS and Credit Suisse Group from Switzerland, and Deutsche Bank of Germany, all of which benefited from the Treasury Department’s taxpayer-financed rescue of American International Group. Investment banks Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley as well as commercial banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup, Wells Fargo and Bank of America also received far more from government than they put into politics: They benefited from the bailouts of the financial industry undertaken by Treasury and the Federal Reserve. Weapons manufacturers like Boeing and Lockheed Martin, both of which disclosed spending more than $10 million each year on lobbying, also made the list. So did McKesson, a pharmaceutical wholesaler that is the biggest vendor for Veterans Affairs, and the Carlyle Group, a wealth management firm started by former government insiders who invest in firms that have significant involvement with government, such as defense, telecommunications and health care.

A range of returns

To catalogue the money flowing to and from the Fixed Fortune 200, we examined data on campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures. We compiled and queried a host of government spending records, including spending approved through the normal budgeting process. We also looked at additional spending measures — extra-budgetary spending on the Global War on Terror, renamed Overseas Contingency Operations in 2009, and emergency or one-time measures like the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. And because the Federal Reserve made use of its power to advance credit to private firms in extraordinary circumstances, we also examined its interventions in the economy.

For every dollar spent influencing politics, the Fixed Fortune 200 received $760 from the government. Graphic credit: The Sunlight Foundation

See our methodology for a complete explanation of how we arrived at these numbers and more.

Some of the gets are harder to quantify. While corporate interests disclose lobbying on federal spending — the budget and appropriations process — more than any other issue, they also seek to influence trade agreements, labor rules, environmental regulation and the Internal Revenue Code.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield has its own provision in the tax code, section 833, that saves its companies an estimated $1 billion a year. Life insurance companies like New York Life and Pacific Mutual, and their customers, are eligible for tax breaks that save the industry $30 billion a year, with about $3 billion going to the companies and the balance going to their policyholders. The corporate tax code is full of loopholes and subsidies that companies lobby for to help their bottom lines; Citizens for Tax Justice researched the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures filed by publicly traded corporations in an effort to determine their effective tax rates; its analysis included 89 members of the group Sunlight examined. The average effective tax rate of those companies was 17.7 percent between 2008 and 2012. Federal law, meanwhile, sets the corporate tax rate at 35 percent.

As far as we can tell, one thing the Fixed Fortune 200 did not do, for the most part, was take advantage of the new opportunities to spend on politics that the Citizens United decision afforded them. The 200 corporate donors gave just $3 million to super PACs, with the bulk of that amount a single $2.5 million donation from Chevron to the Congressional Leadership PAC, a super PAC that’s been linked to House Speaker John Boehner. It's important to note, however, that contributions by these companies to politically active nonprofits (a category that includes the Chamber of Commerce) are impossible to track because of tax laws that allow those entities to shield donors.

Though beyond the scope of our study, which focused on the federal government, it is worth noting that 174 of the 200 corporations won subsidies from state and local governments, according to Good Jobs First, an organization that tracks economic development programs. The Citizens United decision also applies to state election laws, giving corporations the right to speak at the state and local levels as well.

Nonetheless, opinion polls show that majorities of Americans generally trust governments in their city halls, township boards and state capitals. That doesn’t compare well to the mere 19 percent of Americans who trust their federal government. Frustration with Washington runs high for any number of reasons, but consider:

  • Two-thirds of Americans believe corporations pay too little in taxes and that they should pay more, but tax reform stalls in Congress year after year;
  • Prominent politicians from both parties have criticized corporate welfare programs that benefit big business for more than two decades, but not one of those programs has been repealed;
  • The president and Congress ended a reduction in payroll taxes that benefited wage earners in January 2013 but extended business tax breaks for insurers, energy companies and other corporations;
  • Federal bailouts returned financial industry firms that started the crisis to profitability, while middle class income and net worth of the middle class fell.

More than seven years after Washington passed the first measures to stimulate the economy as the housing bubble started to burst, more and more Americans are living on less and less, without as much savings and other assets to fall back on in hard times. Washington policies that have restored corporate profits and made the stock market boom have left much of the country behind. Perhaps that’s why a whole host of polls, from networks and news organizations and nonprofit groups, show large majorities of Americans, year after year, saying that the country is on the wrong track.

In its Citizens United decision, the court took for granted that “favoritism and influence” are inherent in electoral democracy and that “democracy is premised on responsiveness” of politicians to those who support them. We found ample evidence of that.

“The appearance of influence or access,” the court said, “will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.”

It appears that the electorate — who stayed away from the polls this year in droves — might not agree.

Nov 14, 2014

This is a screenshot of the new Today in OpenGov newsletter

Today in OpenGov, inbox edition

Great news, opengov fans: Now there’s a new way to wake up with the news you care about most.

Beginning Monday, Sunlight will start delivering a regular digest of open government news and information each morning to subscribers’ inboxes. We’re calling it "Today in OpenGov," and it’s Sunlight’s first-ever daily newsletter. (Click here to subscribe.)

Longtime Sunlight readers will probably recognize the name. The concept of publishing a regular roundup of open government news has been a constant feature of the Sunlight blog for nearly two years. Readers should notice a few other similarities too: The format will remain largely the same as the blog posts, which have been pretty successful in driving steady morning traffic. And Matt, who has been the digest’s main author since Day One, is staying on as lead author. If you’ve been reading Today in OpenGov on the blog on any regular basis, you already know he does a terrific job scouring the web to find open government news from across the globe each morning. (And, of course, he’ll also continue his standard practice of linking directly to those sources and providing all the credit that’s due — an editorial standard that we take seriously at Sunlight.)

But why the change over to email to begin with? A few reasons.

First, email is where our readers currently live, plain and simple. The importance of the inbox as a vehicle for gaining readers’ attention has been well documented. Some are calling it a comeback. Whatever it is, the fundamental truth as we understand is that that most of our readers are like us: They wake up, check their email and read the morning news while on their way to the office, or maybe during those first few minutes while enjoying that cup of coffee (or tea!). A morning newsletter delivered to that same inbox just makes sense.

Oh, and speaking of commuting, did we mention Today in OpenGov will also be responsive to your mobile device? We’re lucky enough to have an incredibly talented design staff here at Sunlight, who bring a comprehensive approach to projects. So not only will you see a lovely new layout for TIOG, but you’ll also be able to read it in any number of formats suitable to the opengov reader who is on the go. That’s a flexibility we just don’t have on Sunlight’s blog.

Finally, Today in OpenGov is part of a larger experiment at Sunlight to overhaul our entire email strategy. The last few years alone have brought a lot of change around here — an expanded policy focus, a bigger Labs department and a more robust reporting group. Sunlight’s blog has traditionally been the voice of Sunlight’s messaging and output, and that will largely remain the same. But as the production has hit new levels, we’re working on new ways to curate our content to the segments of audiences who care about it most. Newsletters are just one way we know we can reach diverse streams of readers more effectively — expect to see more options in 2015.

In the meantime, be sure to sign up to get the first edition of Today in OpenGov, landing in inboxes this Monday! We're pretty pumped about it, and we can't wait to see what you think.

Nov 14, 2014

A newspaper with the headline Open Gov National News

  • Recent scandals at the Department of Veterans Affairs resulted in some quick reforms, including potentially very meaningful transparency provisions. (Roll Call)
  • The fight to replace Darrell Issa as Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is heating up with three members battling to replace the controversial Issa. (POLITICO)
  • Congress and the White House teamed up to eliminate around 50 outdated agency reports. They could expand this area of agreement by passing the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act next Congress and giving the public a full picture of agency reports to Congress. (Government Executive)
  • Congress passed a bill that would speed up the process of historical White House records, limiting the amount of time the office could delay those decisions. (POLITICO)
  • A thought exercise in requiring Civil Society to meet a certain level of openness to participate in activities surrounding the Open Government Partnership. (Open Government Partnership)
  • Malta is debating a new party financing law and some elected officials are questioning if it will only help the two major parties. (Malta Today)
State and Local News
  • The executive director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government spoke recently about the need to follow up when initial records requests are denied. (Johnson City Press)
  • SEPTA, a Philadelphia area transit organization, is fighting crime in its system using data mapping. ( Philly)
  • Code for America is out with a new set of principles for 21st century government, informed by efforts in the UK and at the Federal level, as well as lessons learned from their Summit earlier this year. (Code For America)

Do you want to track transparency news? You can follow the progress of relevant bills, court cases, and regulations using Scout. You can also get Today in #OpenGov sent directly to your preferred news reader. If you would like suggest an event, please email by 7 am on the Monday prior to the event. 

Nov 13, 2014

A newspaper with the headline Open Gov National News

  • As regulators examine the proposed mergers between Comcast and Time Warner as well as AT&T and DirecTV a number of major media companies, including Disney and CBS, are asking courts to keep their deals with the cable, satellite, and internet giants. (The Hill)
  • A new report from the Deparment of Energy IG shows that a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, with help from a former member of Congress, improperly pushed the Obama administration and Congress to extend a no-bid contract worth $2.4 billion. (Washington Post)
  • Five outgoing members of the House have some consolation as they face retirement (forced by the voters or self inflicted). They are leaving open ethics reviews behind them. (Roll Call)
  • What happened to Warren the watchdog? She became a politician, apparently. (POLITICO)
  • At least half a dozen campaign finance cases that could even further deregulate the system are working their way through the court system. (POLITICO)
State and Local News
  • A county prosecutor in Arkansas is threatening to arrest a Little Rock housing official for violating the state's Freedom of Information Act. (TechDirt)
  • San Francisco used to be criss crossed with streams and creeks. A new art project aims to visualize the waterways on roads around city hall. (CityLab)
  • Michigan is looking to a former Ford executive to help overhaul its procurement system. (Government Technology)
  • The Michigan Department of Transportation is launching a mobile version of its Mi Drive transportation data dashboard. (Government Executive)
Events Today  

Do you want to track transparency news? You can follow the progress of relevant bills, court cases, and regulations using Scout. You can also get Today in #OpenGov sent directly to your preferred news reader. If you would like suggest an event, please email by 7 am on the Monday prior to the event.