FOI Advocate Blog

The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit http://foiadvocate.blogspot.com/.
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July 31, 2015 9:30 AM

This spring, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came under fire when the State Department disclosed her exclusive use of a personal email server during her time as Secretary of State.

This raised major transparency concerns because she used a private account and her email correspondence was not available for production when the State Department received Freedom of Information Act requests. The State Department is now in the process of reviewing and producing the roughly 55,000 pages of email Clinton and her staff determined should be turned over to it – and those may even be incomplete.  Continue>>>

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July 30, 2015 10:35 AM

The majority of open data portals online today are confined to information from a single city government or political jurisdiction.  For researchers, policymakers, or other data portal users, this can create problems: we know that urban landscapes are complex, interconnected places that do not exist within the bounds of a single government entity.  What if, say, I want to see a map of recent traffic accidents in Manhattan, and understand if weather conditions have an effect?  Or what if I want to see if there’s a connection in Chicago between sanitation complaints and environmental inspections?

Finding the answers to such questions is not an easy one; it would require looking at datasets from the City of New York and NOAA, and the City of Chicago and Cook County, respectively.  Each question requires an awkward compare-and-contrast between data from separate government portals.  What’s a researcher to do?  Continue>>>

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July 29, 2015 12:33 PM

RALEIGH — A bill that would allow quicker changes to North Carolina's execution process and block information about the manufacturing of lethal injection drugs has passed the legislature and is going to the governor.

The House on Wednesday agreed with changes made by the Senate earlier this week allowing parts of the law to stand if one portion is struck down in court. Lawmakers supporting the bill say they expect lengthy legal challenges.  Continue>>>

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July 28, 2015 9:55 AM

While U.S. Special Operations Command has seen a dramatic increase in personnel and funding since the beginning of the war on terror, the Defense Department still is unable to accurately provide detailed funding numbers across the services, leaving decision makers in the dark on exactly how much money goes toward special operations, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The report, dated July 16, states that USSOCOM’s total personnel has jumped from 42,800 in 2001 to 62,800 in 2014, a rise of about 47 percent since before the war in Afghanistan kicked off. In that same time, allotted funding climbed from $3.1 billion to $9.8 billion, GAO found. Continue>>>

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July 24, 2015 10:53 AM

A number of people with local ties received Illinois Courage Awards Thursday for their impact on the government transparency movement.

Courage Award winners from the area included former Shumway Fire Protection District candidate Eric Petty, Effingham Unit 40 school board member Jane Willenborg, Effingham County Health Board Chairman Dot Behrns and Carl Miller of the Neoga Taxpayer Alliance. In addition, the Effingham County Board was honored as a group.  Continue>>>

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July 21, 2015 8:55 AM

Four powerful lawmakers are pressing the Treasury Department to explain why it has not yet ensured that some of the tools used by the Recovery Operations Center will live on after the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board ceases operations this fall.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, respectively, and Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman and ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, respectively,  wrote to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew on July 16 asking for the department’s plans to incorporate the center’s data analytics tools into the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act).  Continue>>>

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July 20, 2015 9:52 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) launched the first in a new series of monthly reports to highlight key trends from consumer complaints submitted to the Bureau. The monthly report includes complaint data on company performance, complaint volume, state and local information, and product trends. Each month, the report will spotlight a particular product and geographic location – this report provides a closer look at debt collection complaints and complaints from consumers in Milwaukee, Wis. The reports will provide insight for the public into the hundreds of thousands of consumer complaints on financial products and services handled by the CFPB.

“Consumer complaints are the CFPB’s compass and play a central role in everything we do. They help us identify and prioritize problems for potential action,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “These monthly reports will enable us to share that data with the public more regularly, so that everyone can benefit from the information.”  Continue>>>

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July 16, 2015 1:15 PM

With the 24-hour news cycle and at-your-fingers access to the latest stories, the American people have plenty of information constantly available to them. And whether they know it or not, they are using much of that information as a de facto source for evaluating the effectiveness of government.

Each of us serves as a self-contained big data processor, tagging data elements in our own minds and using the information later to formulate decisions such as preferred presidential candidates, favored legislative efforts, and opinions about policy nuances that we may not even understand to be nuanced or policy-related.  Continue>>>

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July 16, 2015 12:12 PM

Kansas handed out tax credits for plugging abandoned oil wells and shooting a movie in the state in 2013, but the state Department of Revenue won’t say how much they were worth or who got them.

That’s confidential.  Continue>>>

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July 16, 2015 12:04 PM

What kind of bottled water do state legislators and their staff prefer? How about judges?

Those answers are available under an online program of financial transparency compiled by state comptroller Kevin Lembo. The latest expansion, unveiled Wednesday, allows citizens to find out all kinds of answers about the state budget over the past five years.  Continue>>>

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July 15, 2015 9:46 AM

SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Scott Wilk’s, R- Santa Clarita, bill AB 85 which will stop state agencies from taking advantage of a loophole that allows them to hold closed door meetings without public involvement passed unanimously out of the Senate Governmental Organization Committee.

“State agencies, such as the California High-Speed Rail Authority, have been exploiting a loophole to hold two-member committee meetings without following standard transparency practices,” said Wilk. Continue>>>

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July 14, 2015 11:36 AM

It didn't take long for journalists to criticize the flaw -- for them -- in the federal government's new pilot program on making public all responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. It didn't take much longer for open government advocates to suggest the reporters were putting their interests ahead of the public's.

"Get this," tweeted Erik Wemple, media critic at The Washington Post. "Federal government is implementing a FOIA reform that could actually hurt journos."  Continue>>>

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