Open Data Search Engine — We just received the September newsletter from the Sunlight Foundation, which is an organization that advocates for government transparency.
The articles are from July and are a tad dated but they are still worth perusing.
Sunlight notes that more than 60 of the delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philly were registered lobbyists.
It explains the benefits that can be had in forcing candidates to release tax returns.
It also provides a useful search engine for open data policies for governmental entities.
Open Data Search Engine
Top Donors 2014— Sunlight Foundation which does yeoman’s work showing how our political campaigns and crusades are funded recently distributed a best-of 2015 which included this dissection from April of where the money went in the 2014 election from the “one percent of the one percent”. They hold this category contains 31,976 persons who contributed $1.18 billion.
Sunlight noted that this money skewed slightly to the GOP and conservatives — $553 million verses $505 million to Democrats and liberals. The top donors, however, were overwhelmingly D.
Liberal hedge fund manger Tom Steyer spent $73,884, 467, which is more than the next 17 Republicans combined. A nice chunk of it went to the campaign for Tom Wolf.
The number 2 donor was former New York Mayor Michale Bloomberg who once upon a time was a Republican but has since moved solely into the camp of country-club progressives. He gave $11,042,800 of which $10,527,600 went to the left.
Sunlight is a critic of Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision that held that the First Amendment prohibited government interference with political spending by non-profit groups. Much of this money now goes to “super PACs” which are political action committees that don’t make direct contributions to candidates but stick to issues.
Criticism of Citizens United is extremely short-sighted. The Supreme Court got it right. The largest media organization in the world is Philadelphia-based Comcast. It’s “news” outlets are NBC and its spin-offs, which are basically Democrat propaganda machines. The New York Times, despite its fading reputation, is also a partisan mouthpiece. There is no inherent difference between a group of people chipping in to send out mailings and make posters to disseminate information than a New York Times front page story except that the mailings and posters are likely far more honest and accurate.
Top Donors 2014 As Per Sunlight
Sunlight Foundation is doing yeoman’s work to ensure transparency in the political process.
Stephen Larrick of the Foundation has an article that explains how a written policy is more than just a symbolic document but a practical tool.
Larrick noted that a written policy codifies and advances existing practice, builds internal buy-in, invites public engagement, and builds a legal framework for accountability and enforcement.
One can read the complete thing here.
Written Policy Advances Transparency
Bob Guzzardi has sent us a link to Montgomery County’s new online budget tool and has offered praise for those who conceived it specifically noting that they were Democrats.
So thank you Bob and we join in offering kudos to the government transparency-supporting Montgomery County Democrats.
Evan Mackinder of Sunlight Foundation tells us that his organization has a tool that let’s one experience firsthand the results of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and create poetry that one may tweet to the world.
It can be found here.
Don’t forget to tweet your congressman to let him or her know you want open government.
Sunlight Foundation Gives FOIA Experience
The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed a bill creating a searchable internet-accessible database of all state and local government funding and spending, along with that of independent state-affiliated agencies such as the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the Commonwealth Financing Authority, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System, the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority, the State Public School Building Authority, the Pennsylvania Higher Educational Facilities Authority and the State System of Higher Education.
The news was tweeted by Sen Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-9) at 4:10 this afternoon, June 28.
The bill, HB 15, returns to the State House for concurrence.
The bill directs the website, to be called PennWATCH, to be available by Dec. 31, 2012.
The site will include:
- The name and address of the Commonwealth agency or other entity receiving funding and the applicable identifier and classification under the vendor identification system
- The amount of the funding action or expenditure.
- The agency initiating the funding action or expenditure.
- The applicable appropriation and the appropriation fiscal year from which the funding action or expenditure is made.
- A counter to show the number of times the website is accessed.
- The funding source.
The site will also show the total number of individuals employed by each Commonwealth agency as of the 15th day of the previous month, and list by the name, position title and current annual salary for each individual employed by each Commonwealth agency.
Pileggi also tweeted that the Senate passed SB 326, which provides for certification of birth for stillbirths and is now before the Governor for his signature.
Pileggi also tweeted that the Senate unanimously passed SB 995, which provides that all operators of oil and gas wells in the state provide GPS coordinates to the state Department of Environmental Protection and 911 centers.
He noted the Senate is now taking up HB 1485 which is the bill setting the state budget for next year.
Pa. Senate OKs Searchable Budget Database
Pennsylvania’s Right To Know law still has some bugs to be worked out.
The law, Act 3 of 2008, took effect Jan. 1, 2009, and was much-needed improvement over the existing Sunshine Act.
But then who could have guessed the implicit conflict between the right to protect the privacy of public school teachers and the right to know where dog owners lived?
Yesterday, Delaware County Daily Times columnist Gil Spencer described how Lauren Marks wanted to know where dog owners lived in four zip codes in Delaware County. Ms. Marks runs a pet-sitting service and was looking for potential customers. Businesses have long used lists of registered voters, taxpayers and real estate transfers for similar things.
Ms. Marks made requests in Montgomery and Chester counties without issue.
Delco, however, felt uncomfortable about releasing the information. County Clerk and Open Records Officer Anne Coogan checked with Solicitor Frank Catania, who recommended the request be denied citing a recent court injunction barring the release of the home addresses of public school employees.
Ms. Marks appealed and the state directed Delco to release the information — after removing the names of the public school employees.
This is a ridiculous and an almost impossible demand, especially since Spencer says state Open Records Officer Executive Director Terry Mutchler has expanded the rule to prohibit the release of the addresses of every public employee in the state.
Spencer says Senate Majority Leader Domenic Pileggi (R-9) is preparing a fix.
And may people wake up to the understanding that transparency is much better than hiding behind a false sense of privacy.