May 23, 2016 •
On May 19, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea unveiled the launch of Open Government Interactive, an online tool to better understand and interact with the state’s public data, which includes lobbying information. Data visualization is provided through […]
On May 19, Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea unveiled the launch of Open Government Interactive, an online tool to better understand and interact with the state’s public data, which includes lobbying information. Data visualization is provided through interactive graphs displaying the number and types of lobbyists registered, of organizations hiring lobbyists, and of lobbying relationships relative to legislative topics.
The state also includes other material with this interactive online tool, including public meeting information. “It is my belief that government must be effective, transparent, and accountable to the people it serves in order to succeed. Part of this transparency comes with the general public having access to information about meetings happening among our government bodies and knowledge of who is lobbying their elected officials,” Gorbea said in her press release. All data published is from 2011-2015.
March 12, 2012 •
Promoting government transparency since 2005.
This week is Sunshine Week, the annual initiative by the American Society of News Editors that promotes and celebrates open government. Here are some of the first news stories about awards given for online government transparency:
“California state government’s website gets high marks for transparency” by Jon Ortiz in the Sacramento Bee.
“IL governments awarded for online transparency” by Andrew Thomason in the Illinois Statehouse News.
“DC.gov Web site gets high marks for transparency” by Mike DeBonis in the Washington Post.
“6 Utah websites get government transparency awards” by The Associated Press in the Daily Herald.
“3 Richmond-area agencies honored for online transparency” by Jeremy Slayton in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“National group honors 14 Virginia entities for online government transparency” by The Associated Press in the Washington Post.
“W.Va.’s state website honored for transparency” by The Associated Press in the Wausau Daily Herald.
March 9, 2012 •
The much anticipated government ethics clearing house is here as the White House promised.
The Obama administration has unveiled Ethics.gov, the site that provides sets of data for those interested in White House visitors, data from Lobbying Disclosure Act reports, campaign finance data, travel records of elected officials, and much more.
As part of the larger Data.gov, the new site has a great deal of muscle: “Ethics.Data.gov brings records and data from across the federal government to one central location, making it easier for citizens to hold public officials accountable.”
According to the Ethics.gov site, this is what you’ll find:
“On www.Ethics.gov, the public will be able to find millions of White House Visitor records. You will be able to see agency reports of payments from non-Federal sources for travel to meetings and conferences.
You’ll find records for entities registered with the Federal Election Commission. This includes federal political action committees and party committees, campaign committees for presidential, House and Senate candidates, as well as groups or organizations who are spending money in connection with elections for federal office.
You’ll also find records for each candidate who has either registered with the Federal Election Commission or appeared on a ballot list prepared by a state elections office. This includes contributor information for each contribution of $200 or more from an individual to a federal committee.
Finally, you’ll be able to find lobbying registrations and reports filed under the Lobbying Disclosure Act.”
For a good summary, read “White House Launches Ethics.gov” by Samuel Rubenfeld in The Wall Street Journal.
November 1, 2011 •
Text messages, government transparency, legislative sessions, and judicial races
Anonymous and unsolicited text messages are being sent against democratic candidates in Virginia. Here is the Washington Post article “Anti-Democratic text messages in Northern Va. prompt lawsuit, complaints” by Anita Kumar.
Government Technology discusses the tension between the demands of government transparency and the realities of state bugdet constraints in “Transparency Demands Cost Governments Money” by Sarah Rich.
NCSL has updated their 2012 Legislative Session Calendar.
Judicial races are getting expensive. PoliticsPA.com posted “Pa. Rated as Second Costliest Judicial Elections; Candidates Weigh in” by Sari Heidenreich. Here is the recent study by the Brennan Center For Justice, “The New Politics of Judicial Elections: 2009-10” that ranks judicial elections in the states.
Photo of texting by Alton on Wikipedia.
April 1, 2011 •
The Office of Management and Budget may run out of funds.
Federal News Radio reported yesterday that the Office of Management and Budget may take down seven open government websites by May 31 because of a measure in the House spending bill that would eliminate funding. These would include data.gov, paymentaccuracy.gov, and Fedspace – the site for government employees and contractors. The article also said two more sites, USASpending.gov and Apps.gov/now, could be gone after June.
These sites are the result of the Open Government Initiative from the Obama administration. The raw data they provide have been the source of creativity for many app writers who have set out to improve transparency, to solve problems, and to change the way people interact with their government.
The Hill reported that the Sunlight Foundation has criticized the sites for lacking important data sets from government agencies and thus hindering transparency. But the article said the group went to bat with the House leadership to keep them funded.
We’ll see what happens.
March 18, 2011 •
Sunshine Week – Your Right to Know
This week is Sunshine Week, when people across the country celebrate the importance of government transparency and warn against the dangers of government secrecy. The organization behind the celebration has a website, SunshineWeek.org, and this is our Highlighted Site of the Week.
According to the site, Sunshine Week is “a national effort spearheaded by the American Society of News Editors. The key funder has been the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with significant support from ASNE Foundation. In 2011, The Gridiron Club and Foundation contributed $10,000.” The week-long celebrations include groups across the country finding creative ways to raise awareness for freedom of information – through songwriting, hosting public forums, having classroom discussions, writing editorials to newspapers, and much more. This week also marks the 12th National Freedom of Information Day on the 16th.
The White House honored the week. Steve Croley, Special Assistant to the President for Justice and Regulatory Policy, offered this blog post on the White House blog in honor of Sunshine Week. They have provided their analysis of how transparency improvements have been made on their Open Government Initiative web page.
For more information about Sunshine Week, you can follow their blog. You can also find many resources on the United States Department of Justice’s Freedom of Information Act website (foia.gov). Another item of interest to our readers is the “Best Practices for State Campaign Finance Disclosure, 2010” from the National Institute on Money in State Politics found on followthemoney.org.
Have a terrific weekend everyone!
March 17, 2011 •
U.S. PIRG Publishes an Executive Summary of 2010
With the advent of Gov 2.0 technology, there has been a hopeful movement toward government transparency, with state government spending being one key area. For those interested in following transparency news that affects government procurement, Govtech.com published an article by Matt Williams called “State Spending Transparency Greatly Improved from 1 Year Ago, Survey Says.”
This quote from U.S. PIRG’s website gives us an idea of what they were evaluating:
“State governments across the country have been moving toward making their checkbooks transparent by creating online transparency portals – government-operated websites that allow visitors to see who receives state money and for what purposes. Forty states provide transparency websites that allow residents to access databases of government expenditures with ‘checkbook-level’ detail. Most of these websites are also searchable, making it easier for residents to follow the money and monitor government spending.”
March 4, 2011 •
Scientia potentia est. Knowledge is power.
Mashups have become all the rage on blogs and websites. A mashup is the craft of taking existing material (data, text, art), mixing it up, and turning it into a new derivative work. Some can be just fun, like taking two songs that were recorded decades apart and making a new song out of it. Some can be helpful, like combining information from weather websites, adding the power of Google Maps, and a dash of poignant Twitter conversations, and voilà – you have great detailed coverage of a storm during an emergency.
Some mashups can be very powerful. Today’s Highlighted Site of the Week is Data.gov. With its May 2009 release of government data sets by Federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, Data.gov allowed very clever people to put out mashups that could change our lives. Data.gov has two goals – “democratizing public sector data and driving innovation.”
The amount of information is staggering: elections, federal government finances and employment, state and local government finances and employment, banking, demographics, and much more. On the site, the data sets can be searched by category, by government agency, or both.
Here is where the artistry comes into play. Groups and individuals have mashed the data sets to come up with something quite revealing. One group, DataMasher.org, allows visitors to the site to combine data from Data.gov. Some of the results are interactive maps that show federal spending per U.S. Representative, total per capita contributions to political candidates, and federal spending per political contribution by state.
Another example is Tetoncode.com, which put together an API that shows federal contracts per state. And there is so much useful information being revealed about health care, FDA inspections, unemployment statistics, job prospects, and housing foreclosures.
I think we can expect to see mashups on blogs and across social media platforms as a standard in the near future. Who knows – they could become game changers in campaigns and elections.
What mashup would you like to create?
Images courtesy of Data.gov and Datamasher.org.
February 18, 2011 •
The Global Coalition against Corruption.
Transparency International (TI) has this motto: Corruption hurts everyone. Based in Berlin, Germany, TI is a non-governmental and non-partisan organization with a coalition of more than 90 local chapters throughout the world.
Founded in 1993, Transparency International monitors and reports on international political and corporate corruption. They look at how corruption affects political parties and the election process, lobbying, international trade, defense issues, and government procurement. TI’s work has directed the world’s attention to the problem of corruption and how it affects people, especially the poor. Among its accomplishments, the organization has played a big role in establishing the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.
From TI’s website you can learn many things about the organization and global corruption. My favorite feature is the 2010 Corruption Perception Index. It has an interactive map reporting the perception of government and corporate corruption for people in most nations of the world. Looking at their scale from zero (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean), I held my breath before I saw the score for the United States. I was happy to find out we earned a 7.1 – pretty clean. I was disturbed to see how many places all over the world fell into the corrupt categories.
In addition to giving us a terrific web design, the people at Transparency International are savvy with social media. TI has put a great deal of engaging information on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and their blog. You can even find a podcast and a free iPhone app.
For anyone who cares about the worldwide issues of good government, Transparency International deserves your close attention.
State and Federal Communications, Inc. provides research and consulting services for government relations professionals on lobbying laws, procurement lobbying laws, political contribution laws in the United States and Canada. Learn more by visiting stateandfed.com.