Sunshine Week: A Celebration of Transparency

Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of transparency in government, will be held this year from March 11-17. A number of events and activities are planned across the country to raise awareness of the importance of open government.

About Sunshine Week

Sunshine Week was started as Sunshine Sunday by the Florida Society of News Editors in 2002. The American Society of News Editors (ASNE) expanded the event into a national, week-long celebration in 2005. Sunshine Week is always scheduled to coincide with James Madison’s birthday, March 16. Madison is recognized as the Founder most dedicated to creating a governmental system monitored through checks and balances. A wide variety of good government organizations, including OMB Watch, partner with ASNE each year to present Sunshine Week.

During the week, public events are held across the country to highlight various aspects of transparency in government. There will often be congressional hearings, film screenings, public proclamations, newspaper editorials, and reports published, as well as awards given to those who have dedicated their work to transparency efforts.

Here are some highlights of upcoming events planned for Sunshine Week 2012:

Monday, March 12

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will host an event at 12:30 p.m. featuring a viewing of the original Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and remarks by the Archivist of the United States. The FOIA law was passed in 1966 and has become a fundamental component of open government in the United States. The signed law will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery from March 9-18.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is hosting a Sunshine Week Celebration with Attorney General Eric Holder from 2-3 p.m. The event will spotlight FOIA achievements made across government in improving proactive disclosures, the use of technology, and reducing request backlogs. Registration is required.

The Advisory Committee on Transparency will host a discussion of legislative transparency and congressional appropriations for transparency efforts from 2-4 p.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building. Experts will discuss rule changes, funding for legislative branch support agencies, and internal processes that effect congressional transparency and legislative capacity. RSVPs are requested.

Tuesday, March 13

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled "The Freedom of Information Act: Safeguarding Critical Infrastructure Information and the Public's Right to Know." The hearing will begin at 10:30 a.m. and will be webcast. Witnesses scheduled to testify include the directors of DOJ's Office of Information Policy, which sets FOIA policy for the executive branch, and NARA's Office of Government Information Services, the government's FOIA ombudsman.

Local transparency in Washington, DC, will be the focus of the Open Government Summit, hosted by the DC Open Government Coalition and the National Press Club’s Freedom of the Press Committee from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 14

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) will release a report titled, Following the Money 2012: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data. The report evaluates the 50 states on the online accessibility of their spending information, updating U.S. PIRG's assessments from 2010 and 2011.

A coalition of organizations will host a networking happy hour from 6-8 p.m. at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Registration is required.

Thursday, March 15

New York Public Library will host a Freedom of Information Day celebration from 10:30 a.m. to noon at its Science, Industry and Business Library in Manhattan. Public Citizen's Robert Weissman will speak.

Friday, March 16

The First Amendment Center and will host a National Freedom of Information Day conference at the Newseum in Washington, DC. The morning sessions will feature experts on First Amendment rights, journalism, and free expression. The afternoon panels will focus on the role of whistleblowers and the press in accountable government and whether national security claims trump the open government commitments of the Obama administration. Additionally, the American Library Association will present its annual James Madison Award for achievements in promoting access to government information. Registration is required.

The Collaboration on Government Secrecy will host its fifth annual Freedom of Information Day Celebration at American University's Washington College of Law. The event will include panels discussing the future of the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), FOIA litigation, FOIA legislation, and the potential overuse of key FOIA exemptions. The OGIS panel discussion will feature OMB Watch’s Gavin Baker. Registration is required.

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