In a goal to arm requesters with knowledge, we’re launching a new project page hosting state-by-state public record law stories and key players fighting for transparency in those states.
….All 50 states give the public the right to see government records and documents, but many state legislatures are weighing changes in their open-records laws.
These changes rarely end up making our government more transparent. Instead, lawmakers often try to conceal public records from the people who own them – that is, you and me.
Public records laws exist to allow us to see into the decision-making of our government. When bureaucrats make efforts to obscure our view into their actions, it serves only to undermine government officials’ accountability.
It also diminishes the public’s understanding of, and faith in, democracy. ….
Many federal agencies could be at risk of not meeting National Archives and Records Administration’s mandate to manage (and eventually send NARA) all records electronically by December 2019, according to a survey.
An overreliance on manual processes and fallible end-users paired with a lack of manpower and implemented automation are driving that risk according to a survey of 150 government decision-makers released Thursday by AvePoint Public Sector and custom research firm Market Connections.
The survey found that while 93 percent of respondents were “very confident” or “somewhat confident” their agencies are managing records to federal standards, a “vast majority” of agencies are not presently sending all their eligible records to NARA. Only 33 transferred all eligible records to NARA in fiscal 2018. The year prior, only 22 percent of agencies transferred eligible electronic records to the administration. Still, 61 percent of respondents rated their agencies’ progress at meeting the December deadline as “good,” or “excellent.”….
New Survey Reveals Why Federal Agencies Aren’t Transferring Records to NARA
Source: AvePoint Public Sector, March 28, 2019
…. Why Agencies Aren’t Transferring Records to NARA
The 2019 NARA Readiness Report directly asks respondents their reasons for not transferring records to NARA for disposition. Findings showed:
– Too many records / a lot of work / manpower shortage / difficult to manage—42 percent
– Cost / Budget—16 percent
– Work in progress—11 percent
– Lack of appropriate oversight / mismanaged—7 percent
– Compliance / data concerns—5 percent
– Other responses / Confidential—27 percent
EPIC v. NARA Case No. 18-2150
Seeking disclosure of records concerning Brett M. Kavanaugh’s work at the White House between January 2001 and May 2006 related to surveillance programs.
The National Archives has released thousands of emails Justice Kavanaugh sent between January 2001 and July 2003 while working in the White House Counsel’s office. The release includes hundreds of emails concerning controversial White House surveillance programs the Archives previously identified in response to EPIC’s lawsuit. In October, the National Archives revealed that Kavanaugh sent 11 e-mails to John Yoo, the architect of warrantless wiretapping; 227 e-mails about “surveillance” programs and the “Patriot Act;” and 119 e-mails concerning “CAPPS II” (passenger profiling), “Fusion Centers” (government surveillance centers), and the Privacy Act. Subsequent searches revealed thousands more emails sent to Kavanaugh about mass surveillance programs.
From the abstract:
Why do some firms oppose transparency of government programs? In this paper we explore legal challenges to public records requests for deal-specific, company-specific participation in a state economic development incentive program. By examining applications for participation in a major state economic program, the Texas Enterprise Fund, we find that a company is more likely to challenge a formal public records request if it has renegotiated the terms of the award to reduce its job-creation obligations. We interpret this as companies challenging transparency when they have avoided being penalized for non-compliance by engaging in non-public renegotiations. These results provide evidence regarding those conditions that prompt firms to challenge transparency and illustrate some of the limitations of safeguards such as clawbacks (or incentive-recapture provisions) when such reforms aren’t coupled with robust transparency mechanisms.
Amazon HQ2: Texas experience shows why New Yorkers were right to be skeptical
Source: Nathan M. Jensen, Calvin Thrall, The Conversation, February 14, 2019
New York offered Amazon close to US$3 billion to build a “second” headquarters in Long Island City on the promise of 25,000 jobs.
Since the deal was joyfully announced in November, however, many local residents and some politicians in the area have been questioning whether it’s worth it, both in terms of the price tag and the impact on housing and traffic congestion. And on Feb. 14, Amazon backed out of the deal, citing political opposition to its plans.
The research supports those who question the wisdom of cities and states incentivizing economic development. Studies suggest the jobs and economic gains are usually not worth the tax breaks since the majority of companies would have come even without incentives.
And that’s when the companies try to live up to the promises they made. They don’t always do so, with the latest example being Foxconn’s announcement that it is reconsidering plans to build a factory in Wisconsin – less than a year after agreeing to create up to 13,000 high-tech jobs in exchange for more than $4.5 billion in incentives.
But how often do companies that agree to build factories and create jobs in exchange for economic incentives back away from their promises? And when they do, do taxpayers ever learn about it?
To shine light on these questions, we conducted a study of a Texas economic development program. Taxpayers in any American city considering luring a company with cash should take heed…..
Opinion: Amazon, New York and the End of Corporate Welfare
Source: Mene Ukueberuwa, Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2019
Special tax breaks do little to spur the economy. Now they’re becoming politically unpopular too
Are New Yorkers better off after Amazon’s decision Thursday to cancel its planned headquarters in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City? It’s a complicated question, weighing the benefits of new high-earning residents against the added strain on local services. Yet the pullout could lead to a decisive triumph for taxpayers across the nation, as city and state officials start to reckon with the popular backlash against corporate tax incentives…..
Opinion: New York Did Us All a Favor by Standing Up to Amazon
Source: David Leonhardt, New York Times, February 17, 2019
Yes, Amazon’s departure will modestly hurt the city’s economy. But it’s also a victory against bad economic policy.
New York Labor Didn’t Shrink from Confronting Amazon
Source: Steven Greenhouse, American Prospect, February 18, 2019
But unions were sharply divided about how to deal with the tech giant.
Policymakers face many demands from constituents, budgetary processes, and their commitment to providing good services for the American people. This last concern is made easier when policymakers have access to reliable information to guide their decisions. But access to data and the ability to turn those data into evidence to inform decisions can be hampered by legal restrictions on access to sensitive data, constitutional constraints, and the availability of resources.
In 2016, Congress and the president established the U.S. Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and charged it with developing a strategy for addressing these barriers. During the commission’s fact-finding efforts, it launched a survey of agencies and units across the federal government to better understand existing barriers to data access and use. The data collected in the survey then provided initial evidence that the commission considered in making its recommendations.
Extended analysis of the commission survey confirms much of what the commission concluded in its final report, validating identified legal and regulatory barriers to using data. The extended analysis also leads to new findings:
1. Federal offices perceive that their roles in evidence-building activities are in niches and largely do not perceive their data collection as for a broad range of purposes like evaluation that would require better coordination across an agency.
2. Units within federal agencies exhibit wide variation in their capacity for data sharing and linkage. 3. Challenges to using data for evidence building are distributed across virtually every policy domain. Respondents identify federal tax information as especially difficult to access and use.
4. Despite some offices reportedly lacking resources to conduct evidence-building activities, it is still quite common for offices to conduct at least some data sharing and linking. However, agencies still indicate substantial gaps in developing metadata, sharing with third parties, conducting disclosure reviews, and engaging in disclosure avoidance protocols to protect data. Statistical agencies were by far better positioned for this work than other agencies…..
Since Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court was received on July 10, papers detailing his activities in the George W. Bush Administration and the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr have been the subject of ongoing congressional interest. Specifically, many Members of Congress have discussed the public release of Judge Kavanaugh’s records and whether the scope and volume of records released is similar to the records of previous Supreme Court nominees.
The release and maintenance of records pertaining to Judge Kavanaugh’s tenure in these offices is governed by the interaction of the Federal Records Act, the Presidential Records Act (PRA), and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). While the Federal Records Act applies to all federal records, such as Judge Kavanaugh’s attorney work files from his tenure with the Office of Independent Counsel, the PRA applies only to records created on behalf of a president, such as records created during the George W. Bush Administration….
In Elkhart, Indiana, even easy records can be hard to get. Trial exhibits? No. Appellate briefs? No. Police reports in the court file? No. And don’t even ask about moving those boxes.
From the abstract:
Local newspapers hold their governments accountable. We examine the effect of local newspaper closures on public finance for local governments. Following a newspaper closure, we find municipal borrowing costs increase by 5 to 11 basis points in the long run. Identification tests illustrate that these results are not being driven by deteriorating local economic conditions. The loss of monitoring that results from newspaper closures is associated with increased government inefficiencies, including higher likelihoods of costly advance refundings and negotiated issues, and higher government wages, employees, and tax revenues.
How closures of local newspapers increase local government borrowing costs
Source: Vivien Lee and David Wessel, Brookings Institution, Up Front blog, July 16, 2018
Local newspaper closures increase local government borrowing costs, according to a paper to be presented at the 2018 Municipal Finance Conference at Brookings. The paper, “Financing Dies in Darkness? The Impact of Newspaper Closures on Public Finance,” also finds that local newspapers are especially important in states with low quality governance, and that online media are not acting as sufficient substitutes for local papers.
Pengjie Gao of the University of Notre Dame and Chang Lee and Dermot Murphy of the University of Illinois at Chicago are among the first to examine the effect of reduced local news coverage on local government finance. From 2003 to 2014, the circulation of local newspapers decreased by 27 percent, and statehouse reporters decreased by 35 percent.
Using data on local newspapers and municipal bond yields from 1996 to 2015, the authors compare municipal bond yield spreads for counties with three or fewer local papers before and after a closure, to counties where no local papers closed. Three years after a newspaper closure, municipal bond yields in that county increase by 0.05 to 0.11 percentage points, they find. The authors find similar results when comparing the effect of closures on bond yields between counties with few local newspapers and counties with many papers. They argue that this is because closures in counties with high numbers of local newspapers will probably not affect local news coverage, as other newspapers may fill in any potential information gaps.
What is this?
SCOTUS Watch tracks the public statements made by United States senators about how they plan to vote on the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and tallies them into a likely vote count. This tally is based solely on their statements: we do not make estimates or guesses based on a senator’s party affiliation or ideology.
CIA Successfully Conceals Bay Of Pigs History
Source: National Security Archive, May 21, 2014
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit yesterday joined the CIA’s cover-up of its Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 by ruling that a 30-year-old volume of the CIA’s draft “official history” could be withheld from the public under the “deliberative process” privilege, even though four of the five volumes have previously been released with no harm either to national security or any government deliberation. …. The 2-1 decision, authored by Judge Brett Kavanaugh (a George W. Bush appointee and co-author of the Kenneth Starr report that published extensive details of the Monica Lewinsky affair), agreed with Justice Department and CIA lawyers that because the history volume was a “pre-decisional and deliberative” draft, its release would “expose an agency’s decision making process in such a way as to discourage candid discussion within the agency and thereby undermine the agency’s ability to perform its functions.”….
D.C. Circuit Review – Reviewed: Brooding Spirits, Judge Kavanaugh Edition
Source: Aaron Nielson, Notice & Comment, July 9, 2018
Here’s Where Trump’s New Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stands On Abortion, Executive Power, And Guns
Source: Zoe Tillman, BuzzFeed News, July 9, 2018
Kavanaugh has written hundreds of opinions in more than a decade on the DC Circuit.
Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, explained
Source: Dylan Matthews, Vox, July 9, 2018
He’s a veteran of every conservative fight from the Clinton impeachment to the fight against Obamacare.
Brett Kavanaugh has sided with broad views of presidential powers
Source: Ann E. Marimow Washington Post, July 9, 2018
Students, Alumni Urge Yale Law School’s Leadership To Denounce Brett Kavanaugh
Source: Carla Herreria, Huffington Post, July 11, 2018
Even though Yale Law School published a press release touting the accomplishments of Brett Kavanaugh, its alumnus and President Donald Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee, not everyone at the school is singing his praises. As of Tuesday night, more than 200 students, staff members and alumni of Yale Law School signed an open letter calling for the institution to rescind its apparent support of Kavanaugh.