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Today in OpenGov: The future of FOIA, the VA (really) needs a new OpenGov Plan and much more

Friday, September 30, 2016 14:27
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(Before It's News)

By The Sunlight Foundation

OVERDUE: “The care and support that our nation provides to veterans merits all of the transparency and accountability the federal government can bring to bear. That’s why the absence of a new open government plan from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over the past six years is not only an egregious flouting of President Barack Obama’s 2009 Open Government Directive, but a failure in governance that calls into question whether such plans accurately reflect the priorities and mission of agencies.

These open government plans represent one of the primary vehicles for ensuring that public commitments to open government are part of the next administration. It is more critical than ever for all agencies to not only publish them, but to deliver the progress reports and frank self-assessment that the guidance from the White House requested this summer. Veterans and the public deserve a new 2016 Open Government Plan from the VA that includes a flagship initiative to publish performance data next to customer service data from the men and women it serves.” [READ MORE]

WEEKEND READING: We’ve seen a lot of productive debate kicked off about the Freedom of Information Act and public records over the last month — and some less so. If you missed it, former law professor — and former White House official — Cass Sunstein published a discussion draft of an article arguing for “input transparency,” which Michael Morisy and many others rebutted. MySociety co-founder Tom Steinberg took up Sunstein’s gauntlet and debated him on transparency; Christopher Wilson followed on, endorsing Sunstein’s welfarist approach to the issue.

To us, the question of “what’s next” might be explored usefully not only through the prism of new technologist, open data policies, enterprise data inventories, and proactive disclosures driven by FOIA demand. It will be informed by comparisons of the components of public records laws around the United States and their effects on public knowledge and debate. We hope you’ll share your thoughts and keep letting us know what you’re reading on these topics or your reactions to events like this week’s Shorenstein forum on FOIA [Nieman Lab].

REGISTER: TransparencyCamp is ON in Cleveland, Ohio,  from October 14th to 15th. Please join the conversation at #TCamp16 for updates on Twitter, register and submit a session idea! [READ MORE]


  • Dorothy Samuels and Alicia Bannon: “Unlimited, undisclosed spending is playing an ever-greater role in state supreme court races, undermining the fairness of the courts and putting judges at risk of conflicts of interest.” [American Prospect]
  • There’s some concern that automated propaganda on social media will have an impact on the election. [Politico]
  • Who’s paying for political ads? All too often, we don’t now. [BillMoyers]
  • Speaking of political ads, while Democrats denounced a 2012 ruling further loosening rules on campaign giving, now the party is spending liberally around the nation. [New York Times]
  • We hope you’ll encourage the debate moderators to ask the candidates questions about open government. We did!


  • The White House asked the public for feedback on data portability. We hope you’ll chime in. We will. []
  • Garrett Graff read all of the documents that the FBI disclosed about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in office. [Politico]


  • On Thursday, Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1349 into law, which directs the Secretary of State to modernize Cal-Access, the state’s website for campaign finance filing and disclosure by 2019. Congratulations to all of our allies and the people of California.
  • Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore was removed from office. [Order] [New York Times]
  • Bill Lucia recommends that open data meets user needs. Good idea. [RouteFifty]


  •  In a new book, Carlos Jimenez argues that open government advocacy and reforms also need to focus on  judiciary, not just executive and legislative branches. Good idea. [Open Government Partnership]



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We want to find and share the most important stories about open government around the world from the past 24 hours here. To do that, we’ll need YOUR help. Please send your tips and feedback at [email protected]. If you would like to suggest an event, email us by 7 a.m. on the Monday prior to the event.

The Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that uses the power of the Internet to catalyze greater government openness and transparency, and provides new tools and resources for media and citizens, alike.


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