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BEV BUTULA: Shining a light on government transparency

It’s Sunshine Week. As I mentioned in my March 17, 2011, post, the goal of Sunshine week is to promote government transparency.

There are a variety of websites available when researching this type of information. For example, earlier this year, the state of Wisconsin launched OpenBook Wisconsin in Beta. The website shows “the payments made by state agencies, the legislature, the courts and the University of Wisconsin System for purchasing goods or services, travel and vendor payments.” More data will be added in the future.

Many other states have similar open book-type websites, including New York, Oklahoma, Illinois, Texas, Alabama, and Arizona. The United States provides access to federal award data at USA Spending.

The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board’s Eye on Lobbying offers information on lobbying activities and a directory of licensed lobbyists. Researchers can search by bill number or keyword to identify lobbying principals with recorded interests on a bill. Occasionally, supporting documentation, such as position letters or memos, are also available.

Both the U.S. Senate and House offer public disclosure websites. The Senate version can be found here and the House’s website is located here.

The Sunlight Foundation also provides an extensive array of tools to assist when researching this type of information. And, for a summary of state laws regarding elections, ethics, financial disclosure, and lobbyist regulation, check out the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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