Taxpayers' money funds the Congressional Research Service as it produces objective and authoritative reports on issues facing Congress — many on subjects of interest to environmental journalists. Congress, however, does not share these reports with the public who paid for them. Thanks to the Project on Government Secrecy, another batch of the reports has been leaked and published.
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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and 16 other journalism organizations, including the publishers of two major Utah newspapers, filed a friend-of-the-court brief December 10, 2013, arguing that Utah's ag-gag law infringes on constitutionally protected newsgathering rights.
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Reporting on abuse of animals is now officially a crime — at least under Colorado law. Animal-rights activist Taylor Radig was charged after she made public a video showing employees of a Colorado ranch abusing calves.
OSHA's proposed silica rule "requests" (not requires) that commenters state clearly who paid for any research they cite and declare whether there may be possible conflicts of interest or whether the funder of the research may have influenced its findings. But 16 Senate Republicans have complained of OSHA's request for funding disclosure.
Some hope for more open government at the federal level emerged November 18, 2013, when the House passed a bill known as the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act aimed at improving public data about federal spending. The hope was bolstered by the fact that the bill passed the House by a bipartisan 388-1 recorded vote.Topics on the Beat:
For a decade now, the WatchDog has been telling the story of how the Office of Management and Budget sandbags public health regs, at the behest of business groups who stand to profit, by short-circuiting open legal procedures meant to ensure government integrity. The next chapter was told October 25, 2013, before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Oversight, Federal Rights and Agency Action.
On October 31, 2013, the White House issued a preview of its "Second Open Government National Action Plan," outlining some steps it hopes to take toward more transparent government. Is it a new direction for an administration whose words on openness have often not been matched by deeds — or a misdirection?
In 2010, BLM denied Horseback Magazine photojournalist Laura Leigh access to federal land to photograph a roundup. She went to court, was rejected, then went to a complex chain of appeals. Now the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and other j-groups have filed friend-of-the-court briefs in support of photojournalists' First Amendment rights to cover government actions.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on September 12, 2013, approved a bill shielding journalists from being compelled to reveal their confidential sources. Its prospects for enactment look iffy in a Congress noted for gridlock. The panel approved the bill (S 987, titled "The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013) by a 13-5 vote.