March 31, 2011

Transparency Review (3/28 - 4/1)

Janet Napolitano
• A top official in the Department of Homeland Security emailed complaints that the review process for FOIA requests was "crazy" and warned the department might be sued over delays the reviews caused, the Associated Press reports. Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan wrote to her deputy, Catherine Papoi, that she hoped someone outside the Obama administration would discover that FOIA requests were undergoing unreasonable political reviews. Less than a week later, the AP formally requested records relating to the FOIA review process at the DHS. The emails show staffer's unease at the FOIA review process and allegations that Secretary Janet Napolitano's political advisors were hiding embarrassing or sensitive emails.

• The Supreme Court heard on Monday the most important campaign finance case since last year's Citizens United decision. At issue is an Arizona "clean elections" law that grants publicly funded candidates matching funds when their non-publicly funded opponent spends an amount over a certain threshold. Proponents of the law claim it gives publicly funded candidates the ability to keep parity against well funded opponents. Opponents of the law claim it infringes upon their free speech rights because they're penalized for spending money on campaigns as that spending triggers matching funds for their opponent.

Secretary of State Ross Miller
testifying on behalf of
AB 81 and AB 82
(Courtesy AP)
• A bill championed by Secretary of State Ross Miller that would revamp Nevada's campaign finance laws received a generally favorable hearing on Tuesday, the Nevada News Bureau reports. The bill, AB452, would make campaign contribution and expenditure reports available in an electronic format; move up campaign contribution and expense report deadlines so they're available before early voting begins; and institute a two-year "cooling off" period for former public officers before they could be paid to lobby where they formerly served. As Kyle Gillis mentioned previously on TransparentNevada's blog, requiring electronically searchable campaign finance data mirrors question #5 from our 2010 survey.

• As the redistricting process continues across the country, both parties are looking to raise millions of dollars for their efforts. The Democrats are aiming for $12.5 million in soft money while Republicans are looking for as much as $20 million. The money will go towards litigation battles over proposed maps, as well as making sure the parties have the best resources available.

• For the techies out there: Matthew Burton details the steps that are required to place the calendar of Prof. Elizabeth Warren, who oversees the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, on the bureau's website. Publicly available calendars don't usually get as much attention as other types of FOIA requests or salary records, but they often contain interesting information about how a public official spends their day. You can view Warren's calendar here.