Plan ahead: Use Sunshine Week to champion fact-based journalism

Credit/©: David McKinney/ Office of University Relations Studio Portrait - September 2008 Pam Fine Journalism Distinguished or named professorBy Pam Fine
Knight Chair for News, Leadership and Community
The University of Kansas


White noise: (noun) meaningless or distracting commotion, hubbub, or chatter

— Miriam-Webster Dictionary

In case you missed it, the rich businessman who helped bankroll the campaign to get Britain to leave the European Union was quoted Saturday in The New York Times saying he advised Donald Trump during the presidential campaign that “Facts are white noise” and “emotions rule.”

Now that Trump has been sworn in as president, the idea that he might view facts as no more than “white noise” obligates news leaders to use their bully pulpits to argue that facts do matter. It’s not enough to let good journalism speak for itself.

Even during what was supposed to be a celebration Friday night, Trump went out of his way to denigrate journalists. “Let me ask you, should I keep my Twitter account going?,” he asked attendees at one of his inaugural balls. “You know, the enemies keep saying, ‘Oh that’s terrible,’ but it’s a way of bypassing dishonest media.”

Starting today, take a page from Trump. Create and use every opportunity you have to engage and inform the public about the value of journalism. Tout the important work your newsroom is doing for your communities and the country. It’s not the time to be humble.

One opportunity to capitalize on is Sunshine Week, March 12-18. Hundreds of news organizations, civic groups, universities and government officials already use this national initiative each year to draw attention from citizens to the importance of government openness and accountability.

The week is timed to coincide with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, the fourth president of the United States and a major architect of our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Madison and others championed the First Amendment to prevent the kind of tyranny colonists faced from King George III who prevented newspapers critical of him from publishing during the American Revolution. Madison said:

“A popular government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

Sunshine Week is a great time to talk with the public about the knowledge your news organization provides. You could hold a live or virtual event, write a column, speak to a community group or develop a how-to guide for citizens who want to know how to access government information. As we announced in this newsletter last week, ASNE and its partners will make available a special reporting project and other content for use that week. Consider developing a project of your own.

Now is the time for news leaders to counter the idea that fact-based journalism is no better than the kind of white noise machine people use to help them sleep. Let them know that fact-based journalism is better viewed as an alarm that awakens them to the truth of what’s happening so they can protect their rights and improve the conditions under which they live.

Posted in Toolkit

SW Opinion 2017

Please note that the columns below represent the viewpoints of the authors and not necessarily Sunshine Week organizers.


Credit/©: David McKinney/ Office of University Relations Studio Portrait - September 2008 Pam Fine Journalism Distinguished or named professor

Plan Ahead: Use Sunshine Week to champion fact-based journalism” by Pam Fine, Knight Chair for News, Leadership and Community at the University of Kansas and immediate past president of ASNE: “Starting today, take a page from Trump. Create and use every opportunity you have to engage and inform the public about the value of journalism. Tout the important work your newsroom is doing for your communities and the country. It’s not the time to be humble.” (Read more)

Posted in Toolkit

How to Get Involved

Launched in 2005, Sunshine Week has grown into an enduring annual initiative to promote open government and push back against excessive official secrecy.

Citizens from across the country are now gearing up for this year’s Sunshine Week – March 12-18 – to once again spark a nationwide discussion about the critical importance of access to public information.

You can help make Sunshine Week burn even brighter in 2017. There are endless ways to participate, regardless of whether you’re part of a group or simply an individual who cares about freedom of information.

If you are in the world of journalism, you can highlight the importance of openness through stories, editorials, columns, cartoons or graphics.

If you are part of a civic group, you can organize local forums, sponsor essay contests or press elected officials to pass proclamations on the importance of open access.

If you are an educator, you can use Sunshine Week to teach your students about how government transparency improves our lives and makes our communities stronger.

If you are an elected official, you can pass a resolution supporting openness, introduce legislation improving public access or encourage training of government employees to ensure compliance with existing laws mandating open records and meetings.

If you are a private citizen, you can write a letter to the editor or spread the word to friends through social media.

No matter how you choose to participate or where you come from, you’ll find an array of examples in our Idea Bank, which includes links to some Sunshine Week “Bright Ideas.”

Sunshine Week was created by the American Society of News Editors and is now coordinated in partnership with the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, but freedom of information isn’t just a press issue. It is a cornerstone of democracy, enlightening and empowering people to play an active role in their government at all levels. It helps keep public officials honest, makes government more efficient and provides a check against abuse of power.

You can make a difference in the continuing battle against unnecessary government secrecy. Join us by participating in Sunshine Week.

Posted in Resources

Sunshine Week Participants 2016

Below are some of the Sunshine Week 2016 participants already on board. Let us know if you should be listed here by sending links or PDFs to sunshineweek @ asne.org.

We are working at collecting as much as we can, and will continue to update the list regularly with names and more links from existing and new participants, so check back often.


18F, U.S. General Services Administration
ABC News
Aberdeen (S.D.) News
ACLU of Florida (Lee and Collier Counties)
ACLU of Massachusetts
The Advertiser, Lafayette, La.
Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal
Albuquerque Journal
American Association of University Women
American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)
American Library Association
American Society of News Editors
Appealingly Brief! (Daniel Klau)
Appleton (Wis.) Post-Crescent
Arizona Newspapers Association
Asbury Park Press, Neptune, N.J.
The Associated Press
Association of Alternative News Media
Association of American Editorial Cartoonists
Association of Opinion Journalists
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Atlantic Highlands (N.J.) Herald
City of Auburn, N.Y.
Aurora (Neb.) News-Register
Austin (Texas) American-Statesman
The Baltimore Sun
The Barre Montpelier (Vt.) Times Argus
Barry University
Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer
The Bay City (Texas) Tribune
Beaver County Times, Beaver, Pa.
Belgrade (Mont.) News
Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat
The Belleville (Kan.) Telescope
Belleville (N.J.) Times
Bellville (Ohio) Star
Biddeford (Maine) Courier
Black Hills Pioneer, Spearfish, S.D.
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
Bluefield (W. Va.) Daily Telegraph
Booneville (Ark.) Democrat
Boston Globe
Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle
The Bradenton (Fla.) Herald
Brico Fund, Milwaukee, Wis.
The Brownsville (Texas) Herald
Bloomberg
The Buffalo (N.Y.) News
Mass. Rep. Antonio F.D. Cabral (D-New Bedford)
CA FWD
Caledonian Record, St. Johnsbury, Vt.
The Californian, Salinas
California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), Sacramento
Canton (Ohio) Repository
Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
The Capital Gazette, Annapolis, Md.
Capital Journal, Pierre, S.D.
The Cap Times, Madison, Wis.
Carolina Public Press
Carroll County Times, Westminster, Md.
Carteret County News-Times, Morehead City, N.C.
A Catalog of Curiosity (Tegan Kehoe)
CBS Sacramento, Calif.
Center for American Progress
Center for Data Innovation
Center for Media and Democracy
Center for Public Integrity
The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer
Cheboygan (Mich.) Daily Tribune
Chicago Headline Club
Chicago Tribune
Chillicothe (Ohio) Gazette
Choteau (Mont.) Acantha
Christian County Headliner News, Ozark, Mo.
Christian Science Monitor
The Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C.
The Citizen, Auburn, N.Y.
The Citizen, Laconia, N.H.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
CitizenVox
City Hall Watch, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
The Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Miss.
CNBNews.net
The Coloradoan, Fort Collins
Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition
Colorado Independent, Denver
Colorado Public Radio, Centennial
ColoradoWatchdog.org
Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune
Columbia Journalism Review, United States Project
The Columbus Dispatch
The Columbus (Neb.) Telegram
Common Cause New Mexico
The Concord (N.H.) Monitor
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos
Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information
Contra Costa (Calif.) Times
The Conqueror, Los Altos High School, Hacienda Heights, Calif.
Cook County News Herald, Grand Marais, Minn.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
Corvallis (Ore.) Gazette-Times
The Courier, Glasgow, Mont.
The Courier, Russellville, Ark.
The Courier, Waterloo, Wis.
Courier-Post, Cherry Hill, N.J.
Courthouse News Service
Crain’s Detroit Business
Daily American, Somerset, Pa.
The Daily Courier, Prescott, Ariz.
The Daily Dispatch, Henderson, N.C.
The Daily Gazette, Schenectady, N.Y.
Daily Iowegian, Centerville, Iowa
The Daily Item, Sunbury, Pa.
Daily Kos
The Daily Leader, Brookhaven, Miss.
Daily Local News, West Chester, Pa.
Daily Messenger, Canadaigua, N.Y.
Daily Press, Newport News, Va.
The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Va.
Daily Record, Parsippany, N.J.
The Daily Report, Atlanta
The Daily Sentinel, Grand Junction, Colo.
Daily Sun News, Sunnyside, Wash.
Dallas County News, Adel, Iowa
The Dallas Morning News
D.C. Open Government Coalition
Decatur (Ala.) Daily
Delaware Coalition for Open Government
Delaware Press Association
Delaware State News, Dover
Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.
The Denver Post
The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, Calif.
Detroit Free Press
The Detroit News
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine
DFWLiving.com, North Texas
DigBoston
DigitalGov, U.S. General Services Administration
Digital Government Institute, Washington, D.C.
The Dominion Post, TheDPost.com, Morgantown, W.Va.
Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, University of Missouri
U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan (R-Tenn.)
The Durango (Colo.) Herald
East Oregonian, Pendelton, Ore.
East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists
Edgeley (N.D.) Mail
Effingham (Ill.) Daily News
Philip Eil, Freelance Journalist
Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)
Wis. State Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-27th)
Eu Claire (Wis.) Leader-Telegram
The Exponent Telegram, Clarksburg, W. Va.
The Express-Star, Chickasha, Okla.
Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner
Farmington (N.M.) Daily Times
Federal News Radio, 1500 AM, Washington, D.C.
Wash. Attorney General Bob Ferguson
The First Amendment Foundation, Tallahassee, Fla.
Fix the Court
Florida Gulf Coast University Office of Community Outreach
Florida Society of News Editors
Florida SouthWestern State College
Foley & Lardner LLP, Milwaukee, Wis.
Fort Myers/Naples (Fla.) NOW
The Frederick (Md.) News-Post
Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas
Freedom of Information Oklahoma Inc.
Freedom of the Press Foundation
The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.
Freeman (S.D.) Courier
Fresno (Calif.) Bee
Galion (Ohio) Inquirer
Gallipolis (Ohio) Daily Tribune
Garden City (Kan.) Telegram
GateHouseNewsroom.com
The Gazette, Iowa City, Iowa
General Code, Rochester, N.Y.
Georgia First Amendment Foundation
Global Journalist, Reynolds Journalism Institute, University of Missouri
GoDanriver.com, Danville, Va.
Gongwer Ohio News Service
Gotham Gazette, Citizens Union Foundation, New York
Government Executive
Government Technology
Grand Ronde Tribal Council, The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon
Granicus
Great Bend (Kan.) Tribune
Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune
Green Bay (Wis.) Press Gazette
Hampshire (W. Va.) Review
Harrison (Ark.) Daily
Mass. Attorney General Maura Healey
Herald Democrat, Lake County, Colo.
Herald Progress, Ashland, Va.
Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill.
Herald Times, Bloomington, Ind.
Herald-Whig, Quincy, Ill.
The Highland County Press, Hillsboro, Ohio
The Hill, Washington, D.C.
Historic City News, St. Augustine, Fla.
Home Town Life, Observer & Eccentric Media, Livonia, Mich.
Idaho Press-Tribune, Nampa
Idaho Statesman, Boise
Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF)
Independent Record, Helena, Mont.
Indianapolis Star
Inland Press Association
Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
The Intelligencer, Doylestown, Pa.
International Journalists Network (IJNet)
Iowa Freedom of Information Council
Iowa Newspaper Association
Iowa Public Radio, Des Moines
IowaWatch.org, Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism
The Island Packet, Hilton Head, S.C.
Jackson (Miss.) Free Press
Janesville (Wis.) Gazette
JFKCounterCoup2
The Joplin (Mo.) Globe
Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.
Journal-isms (Richard Prince)
The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.
The Journal Record, Oklahoma City
The Journal Standard, Freeport, Ill.
The Journal Times, Racine, Wis.
Kansas City Star
KBTC Public Television, “Northwest Now,” Tacoma, Wash.
KCNC-TV, CBS 4, Denver
KCSR, 610 AM, Chadron, Neb.
Kentucky New Era, Hopkinsville
Kentucky Press Association
KGNCNewsNow.Com
Killeen (Texas) Daily Herald
Kitsap Sun, Bremerton, Wash.
KIWA Radio, AM 1550, FM 105, Sheldon, Iowa
KJZZ, 91.5 FM, Tempe, Ariz.
Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel
KNSD-TV, NBC 7, San Diego
Kokomo (Ind.) Tribune
KRWG TV/FM, Las Cruces, N.M.
KUSA-TV, 9 News, Denver
La Crosse (Wis.) Tribune
Lake Express, Milwaukee, Wis.
The Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger
Lakeland Times, Minocqua, Wis.
LancasterOnline, LNP Media Group, Lancaster, Pa.
Lansing (Mich.) State Journal
The Lantern, Ohio State University
Las Cruces (N.M.) Sun-News
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas Sun
Leader Publications, Festus, Mo.
League of Women Voters of Collier County, Fla.
League of Women Voters of Humboldt County, Calif.
League of Women Voters of Kansas
League of Women Voters of Lee County, Fla.
League of Women Voters of the Midland (Mich.) Area
League of Women Voters, City of Sanibel, Fla.
League of Women Voters of the U.S.
U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Lee County (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce
Office of the Lee County (Fla.) Clerk of Court
Lee County (Fla.) NAACP
Lee Herald, Naples, Fla.
Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo
Lexington (Ky.) Herald Leader
Limpopo Mirror, Louis Trichardt, South Africa
The Lisbon Reporter, Lisbon Falls, Maine
Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications, Manchester, N.H.
Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles Times
The Lovell (Wyo.) Chronicle
The Lowell (Mass.) Sun
Loyola University Chicago Campus
MacIver Institute for Public Policy
Maine Freedom of Information Council
Marshfield (Wis.) News Herald
Maryland Independent, White Plains, Md.
Maryland Senate Democrats
Massachusetts Common Cause
Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance
MassLive.com, The Republican, Springfield
The McClatchy Co.
The Miami Herald
Michigan House Republicans
Michigan Radio, NPR, Ann Arbor
Michigan Radio Network, Lansing
Midland (Mich.) Daily News
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee Press Club
City of Minneapolis, Minn.
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information
Missoula (Mont.) Independent
The Missourian, Washington, Mo.
Missourian, Missouri School of Journalism, Columbia
The Monitor, McAllen, Texas
Montana Democrats
Montana Standard, Butte
Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser
Montgomery County (Md.) Civic Federation, Inc.
The Morning Call, Allentown, Pa.
Morrow County Sentinel, Gilead, Ohio
The Mount Airy (N.C.) News
MuckRock
Municipal Association of South Carolina
Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, Washington, D.C.
MyCentralJersey.com
MyEasternShoreMD.com, Easton, Md.
MyInforms.com
National Freedom of Information Coalition
National Institute on Money in State Politics (FollowtheMoney.org)
National Newspaper Association
National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
National Press Club Freedom of Information Committee
National Press Club Journalism Institute
National Press Foundation
National Press Photographers Association
National Security Archive
Nebraska Sunshine Project
Nevada Press Association
New England Center for Investigative Reporting
New England First Amendment Coalition
New Jersey Foundation for Open Government
New Jersey Press Association
New Mexico Foundation for Open Government
New Mexico Pledge
New Mexico Political Report
New Mexico State University Library, Las Cruces
Newport (R.I.) Daily News
New Richmond (Wis.) News
Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center, Washington, D.C.
The News Journal, MyFlorenceToday.com, Florence, S.C.
The News Leader, Staunton, Va.
The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.
News-PressNow.com, St. Joseph, Mo.
The News-Press Media Group, Fort Myers, Fla.
The News Tribune, Tacoma, Wash.
The New York Times
Niagara Gazette, Niagara Falls, N.Y.
NMPolitics.net
NonDoc
North Attleborough (Mass.) Free Press
Northern California Association of Law Libraries
Northern California Society of Professional Journalists
North Carolina Open Government Coalition
Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Fayetteville
The Northwest Indiana Times, Muncie
The Observer, Westside, Iowa
The Observer Online, Kearney, N.J.
Observer Reporter, Washington, Pa.
Odessa (Texas) American
Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration
Office of Open Records, State of Pennsylvania
Ohio Coalition for Open Government
The Olympian, Olympia, Wash.
Opelika-Auburn News, Opelika, Ala.
Open Government Partnership
OpenGov Hub
OpenTheBooks.com
OpenTheGovernment.org
Opinion in a Pinch
Orange County Clerk of Courts, Orlando, Fla.
Orbit Media, Muskingum University, New Concord, Ohio
Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel
Owatonna (Minn.) People’s Press
Pagosa Daily Post, Pagosa Springs, Colo.
The Pagosa Springs (Colo.) Sun
The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post
The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.
Pasadena (Calif.) Star-News
The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.
Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal
Penn Live, Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association
Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Foundation
The Pine Bluff (Ark.) Commercial
Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal
Poking Around With Mary (Mary Treacy)
The Pomeroy (Ohio) Daily Sentinel
The Portage County Gazette, Stevens Point, Wis.
Portales (N.M.) News-Tribune
The Post, Athens, Ohio
The Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.
The Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.
The Post-Star, Glens Falls, N.Y.
The Post-Standard, Syracuse, N.Y.
Poynter.org
Press & Sun-Bulletin, Binghampton, N.Y.
Progress Michigan
Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
ProPublica
Providence (R.I.) Journal
Public Citizen
Quad City Times, Davenport, Iowa
Racine (Wis.) Uncovered
Radio Iowa, Des Moines
Radio Television Digital News Association
Rapid City (S.D.) Journal
Ravalli Republic, Hamilton, Mont.
Reading (Pa.) Eagle
The Recorder, Greenfield, Mass.
The Register Citizen, Litchfield, Conn.
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Retiring Guy’s Digest
Rhode Island Public Radio, Providence
Richmond (Va.) Times Dispatch
RIFuture.org
Right to Know New Hampshire
The Roanoke (Va.) Times
Robert R. McCormick Foundation
Rockford (Ill.) Register Star
Rocky Mountain PBS News, Denver
The Rock River Times, Rockford, Ill.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, George Washington University
Mass. Senate President Stan Rosenberg
Kansas State Rep. John Rubin (R-Shawnee)
The Rural Blog, Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues
The Sacramento Bee
Salisbury (N.C.) Post
The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah
San Bernardino (Calif.) County Sun
San Diego Union Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate.com
San Francisco Examiner
San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Crime Scene Blog, Monrovia, Calif.
Sanibel and Captiva Islands (Fla.) Chamber of Commerce
City of San Jose, Calif.
Santa Cruz (Calif.) IMC
Santa Fe New Mexican
SapyNews
SaukValley.com, Sterling, Ill.
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad D. Schimel
SchoolJournalism.org
Schott, Bublitz & Engel S.C., Brookfield, Wis.
Science AC: The Science of Knowledge
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Seattle Times
Selma (Ala.) Times-Journal
Sheboygan (Wis.) Press
Sioux City Journal
U.S. Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.)
Smart Chicago Collaborative
Society of Environmental Journalists
Society of Professional Journalists
Society of Professional Journalists Boston University Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists Georgia Pro Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists Madison (Wis.) Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists Mid-Michigan Pro Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists San Diego Pro Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Chapter
Society of Professional Journalists Utah Headliners Chapter
South Bend (Ind.) Tribune
South Coast Today, New Bedford, Mass.
South Dakota Newspaper Association
Southeast Missourian, Cape Girardeau
South Jersey Observer
Special Libraries Association San Francisco Bay Region Chapter
The Spectrum, St. George, Utah
The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
The Stamford (Conn.) Advocate
The Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah
Stanwood (Wash.) Camano News
Staples (Minn.) World
The Star, Sun Prairie, Wis.
StarNews, Wilmington, N.C.
The Star Press, Muncie, Ind.
Star-Telegram, Ft. Worth, Texas
Statehouse Report, Charleston, S.C.
The State Journal-Register, Springfield, Ill.
Stateline, The Pew Charitable Trusts
Stevens Point (Wis.) Journal
Stillwater (Okla.) News Press
Storm Lake (Iowa) Pilot Tribune
Student Press Law Center
The Suburbanite, Canton, Ohio
The Sun Chronicle, Attleboro, Mass.
The Sun News, MyrtleBeachOnline.com, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The Sunshine in Government Initiative
Sun Sentinel, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat
Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times
The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune
The Telegram, Worcester, Mass.
The Telegraph, Macon, Ga.
Telegraph Herald, Dubuque, Iowa
Tennessee Coalition for Open Government
The Tennessean, Nashville
TennesseeWatchman.com
Texas Bar Blog, State Bar of Texas, Austin
The Times, Ottawa, Ill.
The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg, S.C.
Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Times-News, Burlington, N.C.
Times News, Twin Falls, Idaho
Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.
The Times-Standard, Eureka, Calif.
Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
The Times Union, Albany, N.Y.
Transparency Camp Online (Lucas Cioffi, Charlottesville, Va.)
The Trentonian, Trenton, N.J.
Troy (N.Y.) Record
Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri
Trussville (Ala.) Tribune
Truth in Accounting
Tucson (Ariz.) Sentinel
Tulsa (Okla.) World
Tyler (Texas) Morning Telegraph
University of Missouri School of Journalism, Columbia
USA TODAY
USA TODAY Network-Wisconsin
U.S. Census Bureau
U.S. Department of Commerce
U.S. Department of Justice
U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
The Union-Recorder, Milledgeville, Ga.
The Valdosta (Ga.) Daily Times
ValleyIndy.org, Ansonia, Conn.
Valley Journal, Ronan, Mont.
Vice News
The Vicksburg (Miss.) Post
Victor (N.Y.) Post
Vilas County News-Review, Eagle River, Wis.
The Village Voice, New York City
Vincennes (Ind.) Sun-Commercial
Virginia Coalition for Open Government
The Virginia Gazette, Williamsburg
The Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk
Wis. Gov. Scott Walker (R)
WAMC, Northeast Public Radio, Albany, N.Y.
Washington County Enterprise, Blair, Neb.
The Washington Post
The Washington Times
Watchdog.org
WatchdogCity.com
Watching the Hawks
Wausau (Wis.) Daily Herald
WDIO-TV, Eyewitness News, ABC 13, Duluth, Minn.
WDUN News Talk 550AM, 102.9FM, Gainesville, Ga.
WEAU News 13, Eau Claire, Wis.
WGBH News, Boston
WGRZ-TV, NBC 2 On Your Side, Buffalo, N.Y.
The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle
Wicked Local Easton, Mass.
Wildomar (Calif.) Connected (Kenny Mayes)
Wilkes Journal-Patriot, North Wilkesboro, N.C.
Kansas State Rep. John Wilson (D-Lawrence)
Wisconsin Broadcaster’s Association
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism
Wisconsin Democracy Campaign
Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Wisconsin Gazette, Milwaukee
Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty
Wisconsin Newspaper Association
Wisconsin Rapids Tribune
Wisconsin Senate Democrats
Wisconsin State Journal, Madison
Wisconsin Voters for Companion Animals
Wisconsin Watchdog
Wisconsin Women’s Council, Madison
WISC-TV, News 3, Madison, Wis.
WJCT News, Jacksonville, Fla.
WLOS, ABC News 13, Asheville, N.C.
WMPX 1490, Midland, Mich.
WMRX 97.7, Midland, Mich.
Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf (D)
The World, Coos Bay, Ore.
WRAL-TV, Channel 5, Raleigh, N.C.
WRC-TV, NBC News4, Washington, D.C.
WWLP-TV, 22News, Chicopee, Mass.
WXMI-TV, Fox News 17, Grand Rapids, Wis.
WXOW-TV, ABC News 19, La Crosse, Wis.
Wyoming Tribune Eagle, Cheyenne
The Yankton County (S.D.) Observer
York (Pa.) Dispatch
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost
Youngstown (Ohio) Vindicator

Posted in The Vault

Sunshine Week Events 2016

Across the country, Sunshine Week 2016 will be marked by panel discussions, workshops and other events about using and understanding the latest developments in freedom of information resources.

If you’d like to see some of what went on in 2013-2015, visit The Vault.

DATE
EVENT
March 2, 2016 Freedom of Information Act Requests at the National Archives
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
In honor of Sunshine Week, the National Archives will host a presentation with staff discussing how they process FOIA requests. The 2 p.m. event, which is free and open to all with no advance registration required, will be held in the McGowan Theater at the Archives in Washington, and materials and video will be posted online. For more information, see the National Archives website.
March 7, 2016 Curt Guyette and the Flint Water Crisis
Mid-Michigan SPJ Pro Chapter
To commemorate Sunshine Week, the Mid-Michigan SPJ Pro Chapter invited ACLU investigative journalist Curt Guyette to talk about his role in uncovering the Flint water crisis and about the ACLU’s advocacy journalism at the Lansing State Journal in the Knapp’s Centre from 6-8 p.m. More information is on the group’s Facebook page.
March 10, 2016 2016 James Madison Freedom of Information Awards
Northern California Society of Professional Journalists
The 2016 James Madison Freedom of Information Awards recognizing Northern California organizations and individuals for outstanding FOI contributions will be presented at an awards dinner at The City Club in San Francisco. For a list of winners, information about ticket sales and other details about the event, visit the SPJ NorCal website.
March 11, 2016 2016 National Freedom of Information Day Conference
First Amendment Center, Newseum Institute, Washington, D.C.
The annual Freedom of Information Day will be hosted again by the Newseum Institute’s First Amendment Center in Washington. The daylong conference, which begins at 8 a.m., will include remarks from U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and OGIS Director James Holzer, as well as panel on ASNE’s Sunshine Week project, the American Library Association’s James Madison Award, and induction of a new class into the FOIA Hall of Fame. The event is free, but registration is required. More information is available on the Newseum Institute website.
March 12, 2016 FOIA Fest 2016
FOIAIllionis.org
The Chicago Headline Club, Loyola University Chicago and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation are hosting the fourth annual FOIA Fest at Loyola University Chicago’s Water Tower Campus from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students, $25 for Headline Club members and $20 for non-members, and include breakfast lunch and all sessions with leading journalists and FOIA experts. Registration and schedule information are on the FOIAIllinois.org website.
March 12, 2016 Open Government and You: A Public Forum
League of Women Voters of Lee County and The News-Press Media Group
Advocates, the media and citizens will look at threats to Florida’s public records and open meetings laws during this public forum at The New-Press Building in Fort Myers. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. and the conference begins at 1 p.m. Joining the League of Women Voters of Lee County and The News-Press Media Group as partners in the event are 14 southwest Florida organizations: The First Amendment Foundation; WatchdogCity.com; Office of the Lee County Clerk of Court; the Lee County Chamber of Commerce; the League of Women Voters, City of Sanibel; Lee County NAACP; Florida SouthWestern State College; ACLU of Florida (Lee and Collier Counties); Barry University; Florida Gulf Coast University Office of Community Outreach; Fort Myers/Naples NOW; Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce; the League of Women Voters of Collier County; and the American Association of University Women. For more information and to register, go to the event announcement online.
March 14, 2016 Sunshine Week 2016 Celebration
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.
The Justice Department will present agency professionals with Sunshine Week FOIA Awards and celebrate the 50th anniversary of FOIA during a public ceremony from 10 a.m.-noon at the Robert F. Kennedy Building in Washington. The keynote speaker is Acting Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart Delery,Department of Justice Chief FOIA Officer. For more information about the program and how to register, go to the Department of Justice announcement online.
March 14, 2016 Access to Police Records
Society of Professional Journalists Georgia Pro Chapter
The SPJ Georgia Pro Chapter will host a discussion including study results and experiences in accessing police information, including body cam video, social media and reports. The free event will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at The Atlanta Journal Constitution. For more information about panelists and to reserve a spot, go to the SPJ Georgia Pro website.
March 14, 2016 Special Sunshine Week Event
Office of Government Information Services, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.
OGIS will hold a special Sunshine Week event in the McGowan Theater at the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington from 1-4:30 p.m. Archivist of the United States David Ferriero and others will discuss law, policy and tools for government transparency. For more information, go to the OGIS blog.
March 14, 2016 Global Transparency
National Press Club Freedom of Information Committee
Foreign journalists and policy experts will discuss government transparency laws around the world at an event hosted by the National Press Club’s Freedom of Information Committee from 6:30-8 p.m. at the NPC in Washington. The event costs $5 for NPC members and $10 for non-members. More information about the program and ticket purchases can be found on the NPC website.
March 14, 2016 Public Meeting: NY State Open Meetings and Freedom of Information Laws
City of Auburn, N.Y.
At 7 p.m., the City of Auburn, N.Y. will host a presentation by Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government. The meeting, which will also stream online, is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required but are requested. To RSVP, or for more information, see the meeting notice online.
March 14, 2016 MCCF Meeting on Open Data
Montgomery County (Md.) Civic Federation Inc.
The Montgomery County Civic Federation Inc. will focus its March meeting on open data issues in the region in celebration of Sunshine Week. The meeting begins at 7:45 p.m. in the Executive Office Building in Rockville, Md. For more information and directions, visit the MCCF website.
March 14, 2016 Sunshine Day 2016
North Carolina Open Government Coalition
Sunshine Day 2016 will be marked by NCOGC with a daylong conference at the SALT Block Foundation in Hickory. The day’s activities will include a public records training session; lunch keynote by Charleston Post & Courier Executive Editor Mitch Pugh about the paper’s efforts to get documents in the criminal case against Dylann Roof; presentation of Sunshine Awards; and a panel on the use of police video in investigations. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to NCOGC’s online announcement.
March 14, 2016 Google Hangouts: FOIA Chats
Virginia Coalition for Open Government
VCOG will host a Google Hangout to discuss FOIA issues, with an emphasis on the recent Virgina legislative session, hosted by Executive Director Megan Rhyne. For information on how to sign in, see VCOG’s Transparency News online.
March 14-18, 2016 Sunshine Week events and special edition
Orbit Media, Muskingum University, New Concord, Ohio
Orbit Media — which represents The Black & Magenta newspaper, Orbit TV, and WMCO 90.7 radio at Muskingum University — kicks off Sunshine Week March 14 with a discussion with the city’s police and fire chiefs about officer-media relationships. On March 15, a “Slice & Dice” critique event will be held, and on March 16, there is an Orbit Media and Forensics Team open house. The week is capped March 18 with a special Sunshine Week edition of The Black & Magenta. Events are open to all students, and more information about times and locations is on the Orbit Media website.
March 15, 2016 Sunshine Week Kickoff Event: Celebrating Openness
U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. Census Bureau
The Department of Commerce and the Census Bureau will kick off Sunshine Week with an event in the Commerce Department auditorium in Washington from 9 a.m. to noon. The event is free and will include remarks on the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act by Melanie Pustay, Director of the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy. More information and registration are online.
March 15, 2016 Sunshine Week Panel Discussion and Luncheon
Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association Foundation
The PNA is hosting a panel discussion with leading experts and attorneys about the state of open government in Pennsylvania. The discussion and luncheon at Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg are free and open to the public, but registration is required before March 10. CLE credit is available for attendees. For more information and to register, see the PNA’s online announcement.
March 15, 2016 Delivering Data for Open Government
Special Libraries Association San Francisco Bay Region Chapter and Northern California Association of Law Libraries
Panelists from the California Attorney General’s Open Justice Team and from MapLight will discuss open government at an event held at Nile Hall at Preservation Park in Oakland, Calif., beginning at 6 p.m. Registration is $30 for members of the hosts, the Special Libraries Association San Francisco Bay Region Chapter and the Northern California Association of Law Libraries, and $50 for non-members. Students, those retired and those unemployed are $25. More information and registration will be posted to the SLA San Francisco website.
March 15, 2016 Is Our Government Too Open?
Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs, University of Missouri
Professors Bruce Cain from Stanford University and Charles Lewis of American University will debate whether the push for transparency is hurting lawmakers’ ability to reach agreement on policies. The event will be held at 7 p.m. in the Fred W. Smith Forum (Room 200) at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. It also will be livestreamed via RJI Online. Registration is free but recommended. For more information and to sign up, go the RJI website.
March 15, 2016 Meet the Watchdogs
Democrat Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.
Members of the Democrat and Chronicle Watchdog team will gather at the Daily Refresher for an informal meet-and-greet to discuss open government and freedom of information issues. The even is free, with a cash bar. The Democrat and Chronicle has more information online.
March 15, 2016 Open Government Summit
D.C. Open Government Coalition and the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser will talk about transparency in her administration during the Open Government Summit hosted by the the D.C. Open Government Coalition and the National Press Club on Tuesday, March 15 from 6-8:30 p.m. at the National Press Club. The evening will also feature government and civic experts discussing recently introduced FOIA legislation and open data. For tickets and more information, go to the National Press Club website.
March 15, 2016 The Right to Know in New Hampshire: Where Are We, Where Are We Going?
Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and the New England First Amendment Coalition
Public officials, attorneys and other First Amendment experts will join a panel discussion on freedom of information issues held at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications in Manchester, N.H. The 7 p.m. event, co-hosted by the New England First Amendment Coalition, is free and open to the public. More information about panelists and the event is on the NEFAC website.
March 15, 2016 Free Sunshine Week Seminar
New Jersey Foundation for Open Government
NJFOG will host a public seminar on using the state’s open records and meetings laws. The event, which begins at 7 p.m. at Belleville High School in Passaic, is free, but registration is requested. For more information, see NJFOG’s event posting online.
March 15, 2016 Public Docs in the Information Age
The Journal News, White Plains, N.Y.
Journal News Watchdog Editor Frank Scandale and his team of reporters will host a public event to share tips, stories and information about how to get public documents. The event at Rockland Community College Technology Center from 7-9 p.m. will include hands-on demonstrations, and residents who want to file FOIL requests can do so and the team will track their progress. For more information and tickets, see the Journal News online announcement.
March 15, 2016 Adapting the First Amendment to the Changing World of Journalism
Delaware Press Association and Delaware Coalition for Open Government
Widener University Delaware Law School Dean Rod Smolla will speak at a Sunshine Week event hosted by the Delaware Press Association and the Delaware Coalition for Open Government at 6:30 p.m. at the law school. The event is free and open to the public. For more information and to register, see the online announcement.
March 15-17, 2016 Open Government Traveling Show
Society of Professional Journalists Madison Chapter and Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council
Wisconsin open government groups are planning a three-day, eight city tour around the state to highlight the importance of transparency during Sunshine Week. Participants include the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, the Madison chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, the Center for Media and Democracy, the MacIver Institute for Public Policy, and Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The tour is also supported by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Each stop has its own local sponsor. Stops and local sponsors include: March 15: La Crosse, La Crosse Tribune; Eau Claire, Eau Claire Leader-Telegram and the UW-Eau Claire SPJ chapter. March 16: Wausa, Wausau Daily Herald-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin; Green Bay, Green Bay Press-Gazette-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin; Appleton, Appleton Post-Crescent-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin. March 17: Sheboygan, Sheboygan Press-USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin; Waukesha, Schott, Bublitz and Engel S.C.; Janesville, Janesville Gazette. For information about times and locations, go to the SPJ Madison website.
March 16, 2016 Sunshine Week Open Gov Twitter chat
Project on Government Oversight
Beginning at 12 p.m. (Eastern) POGO will host a Sunshine Week Twitter chat on open government issues. Use the hashtag #MoreOversight to participate. For more information, see the POGO event announcement.
March 16, 2016 Understanding New York’s Freedom of Information Law
Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.
The Democrat and Chronicle will host Robert J. Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, who will explain the state’s FOIL at a free forum from 5:50-7 p.m. at the newspaper’s building. The Democrat and Chronicle has more information online.
March 16, 2016 Community Participation Fair
League of Women Voters of Humboldt County, Calif.
The League of Women Voters of Humboldt County is hosting its first Community Participation Fair during Sunshine Week. The free event, which includes music and refreshments, is open to the public and is designed to encourage civic engagement and community participation, particularly through volunteer opportunities. The fair will take place from 5-7 p.m. at the Wharfinger Building in Eureka. More information is available online via the Local Coast Outpost.
March 16, 2016 FOIA Experts Panel Discussion
National Press Club Journalism Institute, Washington, D.C.
A panel of Freedom of Information Act experts will discuss how FOIA is used and how it can be improved during a panel discussion hosted by the National Press Club Journalism Institute. Tickets for the event, which runs from 6:30-8 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, are $5 for Press Club members, $10 for non-members. For more information and to get tickets, see the online announcement.
March 16, 2016 Invitation-only public records seminar
The Californian Media Group, Salinas
Legal authorities and reporters will lead a small group of public information requestors in a seminar on how to obtain state and federal public records and other documents, such as campaign disclosure documents. Seating for the event is limited and by invitation only. Those seeking an invitation should write to The Californian describing their interest in government transparency and public records laws. For more information about the event and how to apply, see The Californian’s announcement online.
March 16, 2016 Freedom of Information Day Award and Keynote
Minnesota Coalition on Government Information
MNCOGI will present its annual John R. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award at a noon event at the Minneapolis Central Library. The keynote speaker is independent journalist Brandon Smith, whose lawsuit against the Chicago Police Department forced the City of Chicago to release a police dashcam video that shows a police officer shooting a teenager 16 times as he walked away from the officer. For more information, visit the MNCOGI website.
March 16-17, 2016 Celebrating Openness
U.S. Census Bureau, Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.
The Bureau of the Census will hold public workshops describing its Open Government Plan and recognizing the upcoming 50th anniversary of the federal Freedom of Information Act. The night before, March 15, a kickoff event will be held at the Department of Commerce auditorium. The workshops on March 16 and 17 will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the U.S. Census Bureau Training Rooms in Suitland, Md. More information is in this public notice (pdf).
March 17, 2016 Strengthening Citizen Voices with Public Participation: Sunshine Week
DigitalGov, U.S. General Services Administration
DigitalGov will host a livestream Sunshine Week discussion about civic participation in public services. Hosted by Justin Herman, General Services Administration, and Meredith Stewart, National Archives and Records Administration, the event from 2-3 p.m. (Eastern) will include panelists from the White House Office of Management and Budget, World Bank, 18F and a student from the University of New Hampshire. More information is on the DigitalGov website, and participants are encouraged to ask questions and pose ideas in advance using the hashtag #CitizenVoice.
March 17, 2016 Celebrate Sunshine breakfast reception for lawmakers
Iowa Freedom of Information Council and Iowa Newspaper Association
The Iowa Freedom of Information Council and the Iowa Newspaper Association will host their first Celebrate Sunshine breakfast reception for state legislators from 7-9 a.m. in the Capitol rotunda. The event is designed to remind lawmakers of the importance of open government. Read more about this and Sunshine Week materials offered by the groups on the INA website.
March 17, 2016 E-Discovery, Records & Information Management Conference & Expo
Digital Government Institute, Washington, D.C.
Government and industry experts will discuss current technology-based requirements and examples of successful electronic records management and e-discovery programs, explore agency case studies for meeting the OMB Managing Government Records Directive requirements, and workflow challenges and debate over changing preservation rules. The event, which is free for government professionals, will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information and to register, go to the Digital Government Institute website.
March 17, 2016 FOIA IT Working Group Meeting
U.S. Department of Justice
The Justice Department will host a meeting of government agency FOIA and IT professionals discussing best practices and use of new technology to process release of information to the public. Registration information can be found on the Justice Department website.
March 17, 2016 Behind the headlines: Keeping public records public
Milwaukee Press Club
The Milwaukee Press Club will host a public discussion and luncheon beginning at 11:30 a.m. at the Lake Express High-Speed Ferry Terminal, during which open government experts and public officials will face a panel of journalists asking about the state of access — and proposed changes — to government meetings, files and records in Wisconsin. The event’s presenting sponsor is Brico Fund, supporting sponsor is Foley & Lardner LLP, and it is hosted by Lake Express, which donated space for the event. Cost, including lunch, is $20 for MPC members, $25 for non-members, and seating is limited. More information about the event and ticket purchases can be found on the MPC website.
March 17, 2016 Shining Light on Law Enforcement and Access to Justice: The U.S. and Beyond
Open Government Partnership and OpenGov Hub
The Open Government Partnership and OpenGov Hub will host a Sunshine Week discussion on access on justice and law enforcement reforms, including worldwide commitments and efforts in the U.S. to make this information more transparent. Joining the discussion will be representatives from the Justice Department’s Office for Access to Justice and the Office of Management and Budget’s Community Solutions department. The event at the OpenGov Hub in Washington begins at 10 a.m. and is free and open to the public. For more information and to register, see the online event announcement.
March 18, 2016 Sunshine Week Speaker
East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists
The East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists will host a talk by Deborah Fisher, director of the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government. For details, see the chapter website.
March 18, 2016 Sunshine Week FOI-a-thon
Muckrock
Cap off Sunshine Week with the MuckRock team at the Out of the Blue Too gallery in Cambridge, Mass., with a free public records primer and workshop, followed by drinks and networking. The event, which begins at 6 p.m. is free, but registration is requested. Find more information and registration on the MuckRock events page.
March 19, 2016 Transparency Camp Online 2016
The first Transparency Camp Online will close out Sunshine Week with a daylong, completely online “unconference” on open government, with agenda topics determined by participants who participate by phone or video chat. More about the conference is in a guest blog by organizer Lucas Cioffi of Charlottesville, Va., on the Sunlight Foundation website (Sunlight is not an organizer of this event). Session and ticket information is available via the Transparency Camp Online announcement.
March 23, 2016 Sunshine in the Shade: Uncovering Outside Influence on Local Elections
New Mexico State University Library
The NMSU Library will be holding a Sunshine Week panel at 5:30 p.m. in the Zuhl Library that includes state and city official representatives, Viki Harrison from Common Cause, and Dr. Daniel Chand from the NMSU Government department to discuss the influence felt in local city elections by outside parties. See the library events calendar for more information.
April 2, 2016 A Night of Sunshine: FOI Oklahoma’s Annual Sunshine Awards
Freedom of Information Oklahoma Inc.
FOI Oklahoma will celebrate the best — and worst — in open government during a fundraising dinner at The District House in Oklahoma City. In addition to presenting its FOI Awards, the group will hear from Frank LoMonte of the Student Press Law Center and Robert Henry of Oklahoma City University. For more information and to purchase tickets, see the FOI Oklahoma announcement online.
Posted in The Vault

Your Right to Know: black-and-white

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Your Right to Know: Color

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Keep the conversation going on campaign finance disclosure

Please note: This column is embargoed for publication on March 20, 2016.

By George Stanley
Editor
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

We’ve just completed Sunshine Week — an effort to recognize the fundamental importance of open government to democracy, spearheaded each year by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Last Sunday I wrote about the need to replace obsolete campaign finance limits with new laws revealing campaign donors at the state and federal level. Many of you wrote to ask how we might get that done. Please, let’s keep that conversation going.

The purpose of the new disclosure rules would be to let citizens know who is behind political advertising and their interests in the outcome of the race.

So if, for example, tribal casino operators flooded cash into commercials backing Democrats, voters could take into account upcoming gambling contract negotiations with the state. Or, if a multinational mining company flooded cash into commercials backing Republicans, voters could take into account its desire to dig a huge mine in northern Wisconsin.

Both of those things actually happened in Wisconsin and citizens were left in the dark. Within months of being elected with the help of last-minute tribal donations in 2002, Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, signed exclusive, permanent gambling compacts with the tribes that were so generous they were eventually ruled unconstitutional. A decade later, Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislative leaders crafted new laws easing environmental regulations on mining operations within months of being reelected with the help of mining company donations. In each case, citizens only learned of the donations thanks to investigative reporting long after the elections.

Shouldn’t voters in a democratic republic have the right to know whether their elected representatives are working for them or for powerful special interests, who may even live in a distant state or foreign country?

Of course. But this donor information is becoming increasingly difficult to find at the same time that more money than ever is flowing into elections.

When the U.S. Supreme Court determined that buying political commercials was a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, it effectively rewrote a century of campaign finance laws. The problem, right now, is that the old restrictions on donor influence haven’t yet been replaced, at either the federal or state level, with new rules to limit or shed light on the power of the few to buy disproportionate influence over our elected officials.

After reviewing some of the best state disclosure laws out there, here is a simple starting point:

Let’s ask all candidates, their campaigns and the political parties to disclose the names, addresses and occupations of donors who contribute significant sums, presently $200 or more in Wisconsin. Electronic records of such donations should be publicly available and updated weekly or more frequently in the months before and immediately after an election.

In addition, any person, corporation or group would be considered a political participant if they produce or disseminate commercials that name or depict a candidate, or a ballot initiative, within 60 days of an election. Participants who coordinate directly with candidates or parties —now legal in Wisconsin — would be subject to the same disclosure rules as the candidates.

Political participants operating independently of the parties and candidates would need to disclose the names, addresses and occupations of financial supporters who invest amounts equal to or exceeding the maximum campaign contribution allowed – presently, $20,000 for statewide offices.

These new disclosure requirements would simplify campaign finance laws while also making them more effective. So long as citizens know who is participating in elections they can determine whether powerful interests are buying too much influence over government.

This is not a partisan issue. The same rules would apply for unions and George Soros, billionaire backer of Democrats, as for industries and Charles Koch, billionaire backer of Republicans. What’s more, the rules would apply in primary elections, revealing different backers within parties.

Why would any honest politician of either party oppose timely disclosure rules?

Some big donors won’t like it. They’ll claim fear of criticism might inhibit their willingness to advocate with dollars. But in reality they don’t want to lose power by negotiating in the light of day, where support for rewriting laws and taxpayer spending must be won through public forums and open bidding processes, as our nation’s founders intended.

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who concurred in the “Citizens United” decision that made the old campaign finance laws obsolete, also championed public disclosure in politics.

“Requiring people to stand up in public for their political acts fosters civic courage, without which democracy is doomed,” Scalia wrote.

If you agree with the need to disclose who is financing our elections, please contact your state and federal representatives and let them know.

Thank you.

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Photo: US gov’t sets record for failures to find files when asked

(Larger image)

In this March 15, 2016, file photo, President Barack Obama smiles as he listens to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny speak during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. When it comes to providing government records the public is asking to see, the Obama administration is having a hard time finding them. In the final figures released during Obama’s presidency, the U.S. government set a record last year for the number of times federal employees told disappointed citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn’t find a single page of files requested under the Freedom of Information Act. In more than one in six cases, or 129,825 times, government searchers said they came up empty-handed, according to a new Associated Press analysis. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

In this March 15, 2016, file photo, President Barack Obama smiles as he listens to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny speak during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. When it comes to providing government records the public is asking to see, the Obama administration is having a hard time finding them. In the final figures released during Obama’s presidency, the U.S. government set a record last year for the number of times federal employees told disappointed citizens, journalists and others that despite searching they couldn’t find a single page of files requested under the Freedom of Information Act. In more than one in six cases, or 129,825 times, government searchers said they came up empty-handed, according to a new Associated Press analysis. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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US reduces backlog of records requests, spends more in court

Slug:
BC-US–Sunshine Week-FOIA-By The Numbers

Headline:
US reduces backlog of records requests, spends more in court

Summary:
Here are key findings from an analysis by The Associated Press of how the Obama administration responded during fiscal 2015 to requests for federal records under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act.

Extended Headline:
Here are key findings from an analysis by AP of how the Obama administration responded in 2015 to requests for federal records

Editors Note:
Eds: With BC-US–Sunshine Week-FOIA.

Urgency:
Non Urgent

Byline:
By The Associated Press

Here are findings from an analysis by The Associated Press of how the Obama administration responded during fiscal 2015 to requests for federal records under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act:

—There were about the same number of requests last year as the previous year, but the government reduced its backlog of leftover requests from a record 200,821 cases to 141,549 last year, or about 30 percent.

—The U.S. spent a record $449 million answering requests for government files, including a record $31.2 million on lawyers’ fees to keep records secret. Those increased costs coincided with a record number of lawsuits filed last year, including two by the AP.

—The administration reversed its initial decisions to withhold all or parts of records in 32 percent of appeals, about the same as the previous year. Departments that reversed themselves most often included Labor (in 87 percent of appeals), Interior (82 percent), Agriculture (69 percent), Homeland Security (64 percent) and Transportation and Defense (57 percent). The figures indicate that front-line records officers were making wrong decisions at some agencies more often than they made right ones, in those instances when they were subsequently challenged — generally fewer than 2 percent of cases.

—The government was a bit more hesitant about waiving the costs of searching or copying records. It collected $4.4 million in fees, up from $4.2 million a year earlier.

—The U.S. improved the number of times it granted speedy processing on requests about especially newsworthy subjects, such as Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state and the hacking at the Office of Personnel Management.

___

U.S. government data: http://www.foia.gov/data.html

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@SunshineWeek