What is shadow lobbying? How influence peddlers shape policy in the dark

Sunlight Foundation: Earlier this year, we asked you to help us find out which Democratic superdelegates are also lobbyists. We didn’t want to limit it to just registered lobbyists, because there’s an increasing number of people in Washington who do what most of us would think of as lobbying activity, but avoid registering — known as “shadow lobbyists.” 

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Congress wants to turn Obama’s open data actions into law

A new bill introduced Thursday would give a legislative basis to a number of open data initiatives already underway in the federal government under executive order.

The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary (OPEN) Government Data Act, introduced by Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, would build upon a number open data policies from the Obama administration that push federal agencies to make as much data as possible free for the public to use.

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California’s Public Records Act intended to ensure openness, not provide excuses

Is it legitimate for a public institution to stall public record act requests in the heat of ongoing media coverage of a controversy?

I suspect plenty of crisis management consultants would say absolutely yes. Yet in California we have a Public Records Act intended to protect the public interest and ensure transparency.

The spirit of that act means the answer should be a resounding “No.” Continue…

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White House tech office to co-host open data roundtables

The White House Office of Science Technology Policy has unveiled plans to co-host four open data roundtables, with the first to get underway Thursday, as part of a continuing push to advance the use of federal data.

The sessions are expected to bring together a limited number of technical, policy and legal experts from federal agencies, academia and the private sector — and collect input from the public — as part of an effort to accelerate the use of government open data sets, according to an OSTP briefing.

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Changes in New York Assembly aim for more transparency

The New York State Assembly has passed a reform package to make its daily operations more open and fair, and to provide more transparency, giving the public more ways to see how the lawmaking body operates.

The package comes almost one year after the Democratic majority established a workgroup to recommend how to improve the legislative process, its operations and public participation. That workgroup issued a report with 42 recommendations late last week and the Assembly voted on Monday to adopt those recommendations that required rules changes.

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Editorial: Three FOI successes to celebrate during Sunshine Week

It’s easy during Sunshine Week, the national effort to promote awareness of open-government issues, to feel exasperated by the many recent and ongoing attempts to shield public information from public view.

State lawmakers tried to kill a program that helps citizens resolve FOI disputes. States are keeping secret their execution protocols. A police chief prohibited a citizen from photographing public records as he reviewed them. The list is long, and I even wrote in January that government secrecy was the most serious threat last year to a free press in the US.

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Op-ed: Encouraging transparency in government in 2016

Transparency in government is essential to upholding American democracy. When citizens have access to behind-the-scenes information about local and federal administrations, politicians are held accountable. The public is educated and engaged. And our nation is strengthened.

It is popular to pledge honest and open leadership while on the campaign trail, but America does not have the best track record in keeping these promises. In fact, Pew research finds that just five percent of Americans believe the government is doing a good job of sharing key information.

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U.S. Senate passes FOIA reform bill

The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to expand the public's access to government records, after a year of delay.

The Senate's move means both chambers have now passed similar proposals to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Differences will still need to be resolved before the measure makes it to President Obama's desk — potentially forcing the administration's hand on a bill it has previously lobbied against.

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