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Transparency Roundup

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Clearspending: A Scorecard for Government Spending Data
Although provides a valuable insight into how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars, it is only as useful as the data it provides. According to Ellen Miller:

What Sunlight has found, and Clearspending shows in great detail, is that more than $1.3 trillion in federal reporting data from 2009 is unreliable. The data inaccuracies we uncovered account for 70 percent of the total $1.9 trillion in government spending data reported in that year. Some of the numbers are too big, some are too small and some are missing completely, while other spending data entries don’t have the detail that’s required or were reported months later than the law demands.

Sunlight Labs’ Tom Lee goes further:

This isn’t just about one website — it’s about the way we keep tabs on our society’s use of its resources. We shouldn’t let these systems become afterthoughts. Regardless of whether you think the government spends too much of our money or too little, surely we can all agree that taxpayers deserve to know how much it’s spending right now.

Check it out at the Clearspending website.
The Open State Project API
Sunlight Labs also recently introduced an API to allow developers access to state legislative information. According to the project leaders:

As of today we’re proud to announce a new milestone for the project, version 1 of the Open State Project API. You can start using our API today to get access to information on more than 37,000 bills and 1,600 legislators from the most recent sessions of 10 state legislatures.

Can Virginia Have a Readable Budget?
Paige Winfield Cunningham of the Old Dominion Watchdog writes in the Washington Post about her recent attempts to figure out how much the Governor’s Development Opportunity Fund spent in recent years.

So in the end, it’s a toss-up. Maybe the commission will enact some good government reforms. Maybe it won’t really get anything done. I just wish they’d make that darn budget easier to read so I could get off early once in a while.

Transparency in the Box
The Sunlight Foundation has partnered with the Roosevelt Campus Network to put together a simple how-to guide to launch state-level transparency projects.

  • Part 1 explains the project and gives a good overview of what you’ll need to do.
  • Part 2 looks at their priority issues.
  • Part 3 shows you where to go once you have your issue focus.

Keep an eye out for more installments on how to easily start up a state transparency project.
Virginia Gets a “C” for School Website Transparency
Sunshine Review, a government transparency wiki, has completed a review of school websites in Virginia. While Virginia school districts ended up with a “C” overall, no districts received “A” grades on the review while seven received an “F”.

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