The NFOIC open government blog is a compendium of original concepts and analysis as well as ideas, edited excerpts and materials from a variety of sources. When the information comes from another source, we will attribute it and provide a link. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited; we will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

For Advocate posts prior to July, 2011, visit

May 10, 2017 12:46 AM

In the first study of its kind, we used the Obama administration’s White House visitor logs from 2009–2015 to identify 2,286 meetings between federal government officials and corporate executives from S&P 1500 firms. We found that money can buy you greater access to the White House, and that for corporations, that access translated into big returns on Wall Street.

Our findings also underlined a simple fact: Without transparency from the Obama administration, we would have never known any of this. And lacking that transparency from the Trump administration, the American people will be left in the dark while many insiders profit from their White House meetings.


May 10, 2017 12:42 AM

Tuesday morning is a significant moment in the long history of making the spending of the United States government more transparent to the American public.

On May 9th, federal agencies will officially begin reporting data in compliance with the open standards created under the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act, the landmark legislation that cleared Congress in 2014. (It’s called the DATA Act, for short, which is how we refer to it today.) The data will start flowing to in the coming days and will eventually be transitioned to, the long term online home of federal spending data.

In doing so, our government will give citizens, watchdogs, Congress and federal workers unprecedented public access to structured information about spending and open up new horizons for oversight, accountability, activism and innovation.


May 9, 2017 1:22 AM

More than 2.7 million criminal records will be sealed and the arrest records of hundreds of thousands of people will be concealed under a bill heading to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk.

An open records advocacy group is sounding the alarm and calling for Scott to veto the bill, warning it could hide the backgrounds of dangerous people.

The bill, if signed, would automatically administratively seal court records of nearly anyone who is found not guilty or is acquitted during a trial or has the charges dropped or dismissed. Charging documents could still be obtained from the courthouse where the charges were filed, but the charges won’t show up in a background check through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


May 9, 2017 1:13 AM

The Georgia Court of Appeals has ruled that academic research at a public college is exempt from the state Open Records Act.

Presiding Judge Anne Barnes wrote for the panel—which included Judges Carla McMillian and Amanda Mercier—saying that universities do not have discretion to release such information on request from the public. The judges overturned Atlanta City Court Judge Edward Baety, who was sitting in on Fulton County Superior Court when he granted summary judgment to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents and the Campaign for Accountability. They were fighting a challenge from the Consumer Credit Research Foundation seeking to block release of records on a Kennesaw State University professor's research into payday lending.

In an opinion released Thursday, the panel remanded the case to Fulton County to consider whether the information in question falls within the academic research exception to the Open Records Act.


May 9, 2017 1:11 AM

Document requesters used the Freedom of Information Act in record numbers in fiscal 2016, but agency offices still managed to reduce the long-standing backlog, according to the latest annual report from the Justice Department.

FOIA offices governmentwide received a record high of 788,769 requests, a 10.6 percent increase over the previous year, Justice’s Office of Information Policy reported on Wednesday. Requests have marched steadily upward since 2009, with a slight dip in fiscal 2015.

The Homeland Security Department received the most requests, as it has in previous years, followed by Justice and Defense departments, the National Archives and Records Administration and the Veterans Affairs Department.


May 5, 2017 8:02 PM

A number of exemptions allow public agencies to keep secret routine documents that are easily accessible in most other states. Now, for the first time in more than four decades, Massachusetts lawmakers are in the midst of revamping the state’s weak public records law. As part of the overhaul, a state working group has been charged with reviewing and evaluating the way in which law enforcement agencies have used public records exemptions and will recommend changes to the Legislature by year’s end.

The working group, chaired by a representative of Secretary of StateWilliam F. Galvin, this week met for the first time to discuss the public’s interest in police records, such as daily logs, and unsolved investigations. They also discussed privacy and confidentiality concerns regarding the release of arrest reports.


May 5, 2017 7:59 PM

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation Thursday that requires a “cooling-off period” when open-records disputes reach the point where litigation is being considered.

With House Bill 17-1177, someone who is denied records under the Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) must wait 14 days to challenge the denial in court. During that time, the records custodian for a government entity must speak with the requester in person or by phone in an attempt to resolve the matter.

Rep. Cole Wist, the Centennial Republican who sponsored the measure with Denver Democratic Rep. Alec Garnett, called it a “cooling-off period” during a House committee hearing in March. The required meeting “may last five minutes. It might last five hours,” he said. “The primary purpose here is to facilitate conversations.”

“Transparency without litigation,” Wist tweeted after the bill signing.


May 5, 2017 7:58 PM

Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the signing of an executive order Thursday that creates a new data policy setting an "open by default" standard for all District government data.

The order's signing, announced at the launch of #innoMAYtion, Bowser's month-long civic tech promotion initiative, includes a directive to treat the city's data as a valuable resource and adds new classifications and governance around publishing data to the district's open data portal. The wording of the policy was selected based on recommendations made by transparency advocacy nonprofit Sunlight Foundation. Codifying best practices in an open data policy this way encourages agencies to share their data by providing instruction and rigor around what is a relatively new practice for government.

D.C. Chief Technology Officer Archana Vemulapalli said in a prepared statement that this support for transparency breeds trust and drives innovation.


May 4, 2017 10:46 PM

A judge has rejected MLive's request that the city of Grand Rapids release recorded phones calls of police investigating a former Kent County prosecutor's crash.

MLive and the Grand Rapids Press sought recordings of five telephone calls on a phone designated non-recorded.

The calls involved fired Lt. Matt Janiskee talking to an officer, Adam Ickes, who described former prosecutor Josh Kuiper as "hammered," and to Sgt. Thomas Warwick, who drove Kuiper home after the Nov. 19 crash.

Kent County Circuit Judge Joseph Rossi sided with the city of Grand Rapids which said the release of the recordings should occur only after a federal judge determines whether the release of the recordings would violate state or federal wiretapping laws.


May 4, 2017 10:23 PM

A local lawmaker is asking questions about a now year-long investigation of possible criminal behavior at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans by the state's Attorney General.

The investigation started in May of last year and, to date, no criminal charges have been announced by Attorney General Bill Schuette.

It's a story the WZZM 13 Watchdog team has been following for nearly two years. Attorney General Schuette told us last year his current investigation was prompted by an auditor general report released in February 2016 that showed some very embarrassing problems at that facility. One of the most significant issues in the report involved caregivers not checking on members.


May 4, 2017 10:14 PM

Senators advanced a bill that would change how to resolve disputes over the state's Freedom of Information Act law, but the legislation could get stonewalled by opposition from some lawmakers.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to move a long-awaited bill to the full chamber Tuesday, over the objection of Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews, D-Walterboro, who doesn't want the state's Administrative Law Court to handle FOIA cases.


May 4, 2017 12:11 AM

[Miranda] Spivack spearheaded a database project with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called State Secrets. The project examined open records laws across the country.

"Alabama is one of the most closed," Spivack said. "Pretty much on every single question we asked, the answer was no, we don't do that. No, we can charge you anything we want. No, there's no time limit," she added.

The lack of a deadline for officials to respond leaves requesters waiting with no end in sight.


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