Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

FOI DAILY DOSE: Judiciary redaction privileges may be extended, Gov IT investments get transparent

Congress considering extension of judiciary redaction abilities

The House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 1059 Wednesday, which if approved by Congress and signed into law would indefinitely extend the ability of the Judicial Conference to redact information from reports on judicial financial disclosures.

Information that can be redacted includes any sensitive or personal data that would impact the people who filed the reports or their families. If Congress doesn’t extend the redaction privilege, it would expire on December 31.

The Administrative Office of the Courts submits a yearly report on how the Judicial Conference uses its redaction abilities, which helps the Senate and House Judiciary Committees evaluate if they have been improperly applied.

The Sunlight Foundation said in a blog post that these reports should be released online so the public is able to keep an eye on these redaction practices.

Gov to release more information on information technology investments

The Office of Management and Budget released new requirements this week that federal agencies will be expected to publish more detailed data online regarding their information technology investments.

This is supposed to give citizens a better idea of how government departments spend taxpayer dollars on IT services.

The new requirement is part of the IT reform plan that was released in December 2010 by federal Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, according to an InformationWeek article.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI DAILY DOSE: DATA Act ready for next step, Illinois launches data site

Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2011 to go to House floor

After getting approval from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Wednesday, the DATA Act’s next step is to go to the House floor.

The bill would create a Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board with authority over federal spending. The board would assume control over from the Office of Management and Budget.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who introduced the DATA Act, is also involved with President Obama’s June 13 executive order that established a Government Accountability and Transparency Board headed by Vice President Joe Biden.

The bill, if passed, has an expiration date. All provisions will expire in seven years unless Congress reauthorizes it.

The DATA Act would also repeal the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, which created It would overhaul the FFATA system, which depends on agencies to report spending information, and would instead get spending reports from federal fund recipients.

Check out this OMB Watch blog post that analyzes the potential effects of the bill.

Illinois launches government data clearinghouse website

The State of Illinois launched a website Tuesday that compiles searchable information from state departments and aims to give citizens a clearer picture of government operations.

The  State of Illinois Open Data website will also encourage people to use state government information. The creation of mobile device applications that could use the data is one potential method for taking the information the website is providing and putting it to good use.

The Illinois Innovation Council, which focuses on promoting innovative economic initiatives, is responsible for the website.

While the ultimate goal is for the website to eventually become a clearinghouse for information from all Illinois agencies, for now it includes data from only a few departments.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI Tip of the Week: (Some) congressional financial disclosures available

Federal legislators released their personal financial disclosure forms Wednesday, a transparency ritual they must complete once a year.

Financial information on congressional representatives can spark stories on potential conflicts of interest a Senate or House member may have between his or her congressional duties and financial livelihood.

For example, an investigation by watchdog organization Open Secrets using the disclosure information showed many members of Congress have investments in news and media companies. (The article quotes SPJ Ethics Committee Chairman Kevin Smith.)

Not all members of Congress released their financial information, though. Seventy-six House lawmakers requested extra time to file their disclosure forms, which they will probably release later this summer.

The financial information lawmakers must release includes real estate investments, stock holdings, ownership interests in private companies and other data.

Twenty Senate members also requested extensions, according to Open Secrets.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).


FOI DAILY DOSE: Congress transparency act gets attention, editorial argues against petition to withdraw Obama’s open gov award

Congress transparency act draws interest in House

A bill that would make congressionally mandated reports more easily accessible is gaining attention in the House of Representatives.

The Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, which would create a website with easily accessible electronic records of congressionally mandated reports, now has 10 co-sponsors. Its initial sponsor was Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill.

The transparency website would be updated with new reports by the Government Printing Office.

POGO editorial argues against withdrawing Obama’s transparency award

A petition is circulating that asks the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and other open government organizations to withdraw the transparency award they presented to President Obama in March.

The government crackdown on whistleblowers such as alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake (whose case was recently settled with a plea bargain) has led the petitioners to question the Obama administration’s commitment to open government.

Danielle Brian, POGO’s executive director, agreed with petitioners in a Tuesday blog post that transparency reforms are needed at the federal level.

But Brian also argued that the Obama administration overall has been a great supporter of open government, which is why POGO will not withdraw its support for the award.

The post also included comments from Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, explaining that Obama received the award because “he produced the best ever – hands down – orders for open government of any president in U.S. history, and he did so on his first day in office.”

Blanton also called for open government advocates to focus their energy on making a real difference in the fight for government transparency.

While POGO and Blanton stand by the transparency award given to Obama, they aren’t going to stop fighting for further open government reforms.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email ( or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

FOI Links: Oil spill help from overseas “under consideration” and hiding company misconduct


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