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Posts Tagged ‘foia’

If you missed “Building Transparency,” the live online forum last Friday about how the Obama administration is doing in terms of transparency and open government, you can watch the entire two-hour program online. (more…)

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On his first full day in office, President Barack Obama committed his administration “to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government.”

 

Do you think the President has done a good job of making the federal government more open and transparent? Or has his administration failed to overcome the culture of secrecy?

March 14 – 20 is Sunshine Week – a week in which we celebrate and examine transparency in government. Join Public Citizen and open government leaders in a live online discussion this Friday to find out just how the current White House administration is doing when it comes to openness and accountability. You can sign up at www.citizen.org/building-transparency. (more…)

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Last year, we got to wondering exactly how former Bush administration advisor Karl Rove juggled his government duties with his political ones. He wasn’t allowed to do political work on the government dime — those expenses should have been paid for by the Republican Party.  We were curious to learn more about how that whole reimbursement thing worked out.

So we filed a records request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) with the Office of Special Counsel, which is responsible for keeping people on the straight and narrow in by administering the Hatch Act. That law generally prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity.

We filed our request on Jan. 2, 2009. Under FOIA, the government had 20 days to respond.

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President Obama’s first acts in office included issuing two memoranda and an executive order directing the government to embrace a new policy of openness and transparency. As someone who assists organizations whose requests under the Freedom of Information Act have been denied, these documents have the potential to make a world of difference.

As background, the Freedom of Information Act lists various categories of documents that are exempt from disclosure, but most of those categories are discretionary. That is, the government can choose to disclose documents that fall under these exemptions. But the Bush Administration’s FOIA policy directed the government to defend any discretionary withholding if there was a reasonable basis in the law to do so. That policy hardly reflects the presumption of disclosure that FOIA embraces.

President Obama, as he put it, is “usher[ing] in a new era of open Government.” He directed that “[i]n the face of doubt, openness prevails… The presumption of disclosure should be applied to all decisions involving FOIA.” In this way, President Obama’s memoranda implement many of the suggestions made by Public Citizen, joining over 60 other organizations, in transition recommendations. I believe this directive will have practical effect. (more…)

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President Obama campaigned with the promise of change, a commitment to government openness and a pledge to uphold high ethical standards. On his first full day in office, the new president showed a willingness to turn rhetoric into action.

After eight years of government in the shadows and preferential treatment of corporate lobbyists under his predecessor, President Obama’s directives and executive orders on presidential records, the Freedom of Information Act, transparency and open government, and ethics are not only important in restoring public access to critical information and holding government accountable, but they serve to reaffirm the hope our nation has in his presidency. By issuing strict rules on the future lobbying activities of his administration, President Obama slowed the revolving door that has allowed so many high-ranking government officials to enrich themselves at the public’s expense. And by emphasizing the openness of government records, the orders help to ensure that abuses of power will not go unnoticed and uncorrected. (more…)

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