Open federal court records: Free Pacer!

Passing along this important post from the Sunlight Foundation

On Monday, Princeton’s Steve Schultze argued for the right of all Americans to access federal court records online at no charge. He made these remarks not only because it is fundamental to a democracy that the people know what their government is doing, but because his friend Aaron Swartzwas improperly persecuted by the government for his efforts to ensure that all Americans can exercise this right.

As Steve explains, all federal court records are available online — behind a paywall, on court-run PACER — that unlawfully overcharges the public for access and subverts the reason and rationale for its existence.Court records should be free for the public to access.

He is looking for Congress to act by considering this legislation, which provides for free and open access to court records. He is looking for bill sponsors, and asks that you call your elected representatives.

Steve gave this talk as part of a series of 3-minute lightning talks on transparency hosted on Capitol Hill on Monday by the Advisory Committee on Transparency, a project of the Sunlight Foundation that brings together organizations from across the political spectrum that believe in a more open government.

If you like this video, please share it. Call your member of Congress. And visit

Let’s make sure the Super Committee Isn’t Super Secret…

The wonderful Sunlight Foundation has launched a campaign to make sure that the Super Committee is transparent during its meetings and that the public is aware of all of its operations — in a timely manner.

The campaign includes a nifty transparency resources and public response webpage to provide a better understanding of the issue, Congress’ involvement and the grassroots campaign to open the Super Committee, complete with a great video explainer here.

So what are you waiting on? Go sign the petition! A total of over 5,230 signers from Sunlight, and Public Citizen, have signed on to a petition make sure the Super Committee is transparent.

Most importantly, a new bill calling for transparency in the Super Committee has been introduced and Sunlight is encouraging citizens to call their representatives to support this bill. To do so, please visit this page.

Utah Becomes A National Rallying Point for FOI….

My good buddy Joel Campbell gives us the scoop in the Salt Lake Tribune:

It may be a dubious honor, but Utah’s open-records fight has become a battle cry for open-government activists across the nation.

The Washington-based Sunlight Foundation delivered a petition Friday at the Scott M. Matheson Courthouse signed by thousands of open-government activists to governors attending the National Governors Association meetings here.

They want to raise the profile of open government in every state. That’s important because it has become popular for politicians to promise open government on the campaign trail and then abandon the idea once in office.

Gabriela Schneider, the group’s communications director, said it was ironic that Salt Lake City is the site of the petition delivery since Utah lawmakers enacted and then rescinded HB477, which would have thrown up major roadblocks to government-records access. Gov. Gary Herbert is featured among the group’s poster children for open-government abuse, and images from HB477 protests are part of a video call to action.

“Over the last few months, Sunlight has observed a disturbing trend of states rolling back transparency of government information, clouding the ability of the public to see what their government and its officials are doing,” Schneider said,

Like the Sunlight Foundation, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press also noted several governors who didn’t keep their campaign promises for open government. Included on the list are governors from Wisconsin, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee.

Save The Data! Save the Data!

Sunlight Foundation

Image via Wikipedia

Passing along from my friends at Sunlight….

Next week, Congress is going to vote on a budget that may decimate funding for some of the most important technology programs that help make Washington accountable.

Take action now to Save the Data.,, the IT Dashboard and other federal data transparency and government accountability programs are on the chopping block, set to have their budget reduced from $34 million to $2 million. These programs make up only a tiny fraction of the federal budget and are designed to help the public see what the government is doing, where it’s spending money and help to hold the government accountable. In fact, Vivek Kundra, Chief Information Officer for the U.S., recently said the IT Dashboard helped the administration cut over $3 billion in IT spending.

You can help. Take action now by signing on to our letter to Congressional leaders, sending a letter to the editor, and spreading the word. While the legislation that created these websites and programs had broad bipartisan support and are crucial the future of government transparency, they’re not widely known, so we need your help to sound the alarm.

Take action now at

Websites like and have been used by journalists to see how much the government spends on contracts, such as in a report on BP’s contracts with the U.S. after last year’s Gulf Coast oil spill. Here at Sunlight, we used these sites to bring to light nearly $1.3 trillion in inaccurate spending data — a report that led to a congressional hearing just a few weeks ago.

If we don’t take action now, these websites will start going dark within a month.

Transparency is essential to a healthy democracy, and cutting these programs would be a huge step back. Help save the data and make sure that Congress doesn’t leave the American people in the dark.


Ellen Miller
Executive Director
Sunlight Foundation




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