BREAKING: The Supreme Court has handed down its #McCutcheon v. FEC decision, deciding to strike down aggregate limits on direct political contributions by claiming they are unconstitutional based on the First Amendment.
It’s another major blow to America’s campaign finance system.
While we are not surprised by today’s outcome, we are disappointed that the plutocracy we predicted is now sanctioned by the high court. Thanks to the high court, wealthy donors can now pour millions more into federal elections - the decision effectively ties a big bow around Congress and delivers it to the 1%.
Read Sunlight’s full response to #SCOTUS's decision here: http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2014/04/02/sunlights-response-to-scotus-ruling-on-mccutcheon-v-fec/
While MLB players will be taking the field for Sunday’s and Monday’s opening day games in hopes of winning a World Series title in October, team owners may have their sights set on winning a different sort of Fall Classic.
According to data from Sunlight’s Influence Explorer, MLB organizations pumped in over $24 million to politicians, PACs and independent expenditure groups throughout the 2012 election cycle.
FYI, Washington: Sunlight now has a transparency drone.
As we started thinking about how to approach cities across the US, we had to think about where to focus our effort and attention. Should we focus on a few key, well-known cities who set the strongest examples of developing transparency and open data reforms? Should we narrow down the list to only the biggest, say, 10 cities, or break them into categories by size?
It turns out that most U.S. cities are far smaller than you might think. More than 80 percent of U.S. cities have fewer than 10,000 people. The scope and kinds of data housed in these cities might be vastly different from the data in a metropolis like Los Angeles, with its more than 3 million people in the city limits alone.
As the Senate prepares to take up the first major gun control debate since last December’s shooting massacre in Connecticut, a Sunlight Foundation analysis of the political pressures on 26 key senators paints a pessimistic picture for passage.
Absent a major pressure campaign to push senators to support gun control legislation, the political calculus points against the Senate passing any reform.
The way we visualize and compare cities says much about our understanding of how they work. As part of our ongoing exploration of “what makes a city,” we wanted to survey how people are using data to describe the political, geographical and social realities cities face.
This interactive visualization by Forbes uses IRS tax statistics to track inbound and outbound migration by county and year.
Following a New York newspaper’s controversial decision to publish the names and address of local gun owners, state legislators are moving to make such information private, even as a Sunlight Foundation analysis shows that in a majority of states, the data are already off the public record.
Because of some the work we’ve done before on last minute negotiations and divided government, Sunlight prepared the following graphic that visualizes the recent history of US House votes on the debt ceiling, based on public voting records and a CRS report.
We’ll have more commentary forthcoming, but here are a few initial thoughts on what this graphic makes clear:
- Opposition to raising the debt ceiling is often partisan, with opposition coming from either party, based on who is in the White House. Many House Republicans have voted for raising the ceiling, just as President Obama voted against it when he was a Senator.
- Divided government has necessitated support from both parties to raise the limit.
- There is a significant untold story about the Gephardt Rule, a House Rule which enabled the limit to be raised with little public record. The role this rule played in setting up the current showdowns has been insufficiently examined.
- Good access to congressional data and reports enables this kind of analysis; it could be improved.
- Each of these votes was a predictable consequence of budgets that were passed before them, demonstrating another facet of political hypocrisy.
As we expand on our vision for local government transparency, we realize we need to start with defining what we mean by local.
The general scope of the work we’re taking on is targeted at the idea of “municipal” government, something we’ve been referring to internally as city government, though we’ve quickly realized it’s not that simple. Municipal government takes many forms, and if we’re being accurate, we have to set our scope a bit wider.
As Sunlight’s Video production Director it is my delight to be producing an ongoing video series called OpenGov Champions, featuring citizens who take action in their own ways to open up, or as in this case, contribute to, government data.
I was especially excited to go to Brooklyn, NY to film this episode in which we showcase Liz Barry from Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) and their grassroots mapping efforts. Theirs is a unique way to work with and contribute to open government data. I had watched Liz’s TED talk about the mapping they did in 2010 of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. Their maps were the only high resolution images available at the onset of the spill and spread all over the world media because access to airspace was restricted and planes could not capture aerial photos using traditional methods. It all had started with Jeffrey Warren in MIT and others who were experimenting with new ways to create high resolution maps using low cost, DIY technology like kites, balloons and cheap digital cameras. When the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, they saw the opportunity to help by mapping the scope of the disaster. That’s when Liz met them and jumped right in, helping with logistics and connecting people with boats and crews. In my mind there is a rock star quality to this kind of opengov data work. And they have indeed gotten a lot of fame for their work and were a Knight News Challenge winner in 2011 among other things.