Friday, June 06, 2008

FOIA Friday - June 6, 2008

Whenever you're about to embark into the morass that is government in order to gain information (which shouldn't be hard, but often is), it's nice to have some hints or guidelines to help along the way.

In my FOIA Friday posts, I've tried to give some examples of public records requests and also some assistance to those who want information. Today, I want to list several websites that either cover the issue of public access or provide information about how to get the data you're seeking.

Wikifoia is a website that gives the same type of information as Wikipedia about all things having to do with public access. It's allows users to add content, has 'how to' guides, interviews, blog links and links to other FOIA groups and resources.

If you're new to such requests, this is the place to start.

Sunlight Foundation is a non-profit using the Internet and new information technology to enable citizens to learn more about what Congress and their elected representatives are doing.

"Sunlight’s work is committed to helping citizens, journalists and bloggers be their own best watchdogs, both by improving access to existing information and digitizing new information, and by creating new tools and websites to enable all of us to pool our intelligence in new, and yet to be imagined, ways."

Two of their current projects are Fortune 535 which is tracking the wealth of members of Congress, and Public Markup, where they seek online, public review of pending legislation.

Then there is the John E. Moss Foundation. In case you're wondering, Moss represented the Third Congressional District of California in the U.S. House of Representatives for 13 terms from 1953 until he retired in 1978. He died in San Francisco, California on December 5, 1997. He is the author and sponsor of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and their Freedom of Information Page details the original law, comments from legislators at the time and some commentary through the history of the law.

The National Freedom on Information Coalition protects the public's right to oversee its government, offers grants to help foster the creation and growth of state FOI coalitions and assists with projects furthering public access to government records and meetings. One of their goals is to "start up and support citizen-driven state FOI and First Amendment organizations."

These links should provide plenty of reading for one day and a lifetime of resources for anyone willing to take advantage of their information to help hold elected officials accountable for what they do. So exercise your rights and file a FOIA request today - and then share with us your experience!

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