Media

Keep the Sunshine on Government All Year Long

22 March 2008
Written by

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Debra Gersh Hernandez, coordinator, Sunshine Week

As we wrap up the fourth national Sunshine Week, several things come to mind, not the least of which is the importance of maintaining the momentum for open government we've built over the past few days. This is particularly important in an election year. The people have the right to know where there candidates stand on access to government, whether the office is in the White House or City Hall. But to get that information, they have to keep asking the questions - and not just journalists, anyone who's in front of a candidate should ask where they stand on these issues.

Sunshine Week, which was held March 16-22, did provide an opportunity to drive some news about open government, all of which is linked from the Sunshine Week Web site, http://www.sunshineweek.org, including:

· The news that a Scripps Howard News Service-Ohio University poll found that three-quarters of American adults view the federal government as secretive, and nearly nine in 10 say it's important to know presidential and congressional candidates' positions on open government when deciding who to vote for. The percentage of Americans who believe the federal government is very or somewhat secretive rose from 62 percent of those surveyed in 2006 to 74 percent in 2008.

· In her response to the Sunshine Week open government survey, Sen. Clinton said she would appoint an attorney general who's "committed to restoring open government." Clinton is the only one of the three remaining leading candidates to respond so far.

· In Congress, Sens. Leahy and Cornyn introduced new legislation to shine a light on proposed statutory exemptions to FOIA and Sen. Leahy renewed his push for the Senate to take action on the reporter's shield law. Also, Sen. Landrieu took FEMA to task for its delays in releasing information about disasters, particularly Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. And, Reps. Boucher and Pence renewed their call for a reporters' shield law in a Sunshine Week opinion column.

· Associated Press President and CEO Tom Curley pointed to recent legislative gains such as FOIA reform and a reporters' shield law "that not long ago seemed unattainable." He disagreed that journalists' objectivity is compromised by fighting for open government, and said, "When a matter of public policy poses a straight-up choice between the public's rights of access to its government and a government effort to infringe or even narrow those rights, journalists cannot pretend to be disinterested observers."

Project Vote Smart was one of the many, many participants around the country who've stepped up to make a difference in raising awareness about the people's right to know what their government is doing, and why. Over the next several weeks, examples of this great work will be posted on the Sunshine Week Web site, www.sunshineweek.org. We hope it will enlighten and inspire.

Related tags: blog, open-government, Sunlight-Foundation, Sunshine-Week

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