How will SCOTUS decision affect corporate media?

In 2004, the United Church of Christ produced a television commercial promoting its inclusive approach to organized faith. The ad showed two nightclub-style bouncers guarding the rope line of a church as they denied entry to a gay male couple, several people of color, and a man in a wheelchair. By contrast, a white family of four had no problems getting through.

"Jesus didn't turn people away" was the ad's tagline, but CBS did, turning down the commercial which was intended for broadcast during that year's Super Bowl. The 30-second spot apparently violated the network's policy of "prohibiting advocacy ads, even ones that carry an 'implicit' endorsement for a side in a public debate."

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Shining A Light - The White House to Release Visitor Logs

It perhaps took some prodding but in the end the Obama Administration is honoring one of its key and not insignificant campaign promises - that of government transparency. After an internal review, the Obama Administration will make publicly available the visitor logs to the White House with certain national security exceptions. Kudos to the President and the Administration for doing the right thing.

The story from the Washington Post:

Reversing a policy embraced by previous presidents of both parties, the Obama Administration will make public a listing of visitors to the White House.

The White House characterized the move as another step in making the Administration more open.

"For the first time in history, records of White House visitors will be made available on an ongoing basis," President Obama said in a statement. "We will achieve our goal of making this Administration the most open and transparent Administration in history not only by opening the doors of the White House to more Americans, but by shining a light on the business conducted inside."

Under the policy, the Obama Administration will post online the names of White House visitors from the previous 90-120 days. The only names withheld under the policy would be people being considered for high-level appointments, such as Supreme Court candidates. Visitors whose known presence at the White House would pose a national security risk also are exempted under the policy, the White House said.

The decision to release the visitor logs comes after ongoing lawsuits prompted an internal review of the policy that started in the early days of the Administration. The new policy promises to provide more information about the people who come to the White House in hopes of influencing decision-making.

The review of the policy was prompted by a series of lawsuits by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The suits were settled Thursday with the White House promise to make the visitor information public.

Previously, the Obama Administration had refused to release the visitor records, a decision that was in line with Bush administration policy. But after the review, the White House decided to alter its stand.

"The Obama administration has proven its pledge to usher in a new era of government transparency was more than just a campaign promise. The Bush Administration fought tooth and nail to keep secret the identities of those who visited the White House," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW. In contrast, the Obama Administration -- by putting visitor records on the White House web site -- will have the most open White House in history."

Transparency, it is how government works.

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FRIDAY: Sunshine and Stimulus Spending -- A How-to Guide

The $787 billion stimulus could be the greatest investment in low-income communities in generations. But with huge chunks of the money heading to opaque state and local governments, we may miss this golden opportunity.

So, this Friday, April 24, hundreds of the nation's leading policy and transparency advocates will join a "recovery briefing" conference call to lay out ways to force local governments to be more fair, more accountable and more transparent in their stimulus spending.

In "Achieving a Fair, Transparent, and Accountable Recovery" -- the second installment of the Demand Equity Now recovery briefing call-in series -- experts from the national and local levels will look at how advocates can ensure stimulus spending is open, honest, and equitable.

The one-hour call begins at 1 pm Eastern (10 am Pacific), Friday, April 24.

RSVP here

The call will feature

   * Gary Bass of OMB Watch and the Coalition for an Accountable Recovery
    * Sarah Mullins of ISAIAH
    * Dante Desiderio of the National Congress of American Indians

The call will be moderated by Judith Bell, president of PolicyLink.

Space is limited. Please RSVP by Thursday afternoon. Respondents will receive the call-in information via email later this week.

Got questions? You can email me directly at dan_at_policylink_dot_org.

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The Global Integrity Impact Challenge

Wanted: Good Ideas that Fight Corruption 

The Global Integrity Impact Challenge is seeking proposals for projects that use Global Integrity's diagnostic tools to fight corruption. The best proposals get a US$1,000 prize and a chance to pitch the Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF) for funding to implement their ideas.  This year, Global Integrity released our third annual assessment of anti-corruption and good governance trends around the world.

The Global Integrity Report: 2008 highlights the strengths and weaknesses of government accountability mechanisms in specific country contexts, creating a checklist for incremental reforms. Now that the data has been gathered, where do we start addressing these governance gaps?  This a question that Global Integrity believes has to be answered locally.  

To answer this question, the Global Integrity Challenge will offer cash prizes to groups that use the Report's Integrity Indicators to develop projects that fight corruption. We're looking to promote direct linkages between the problem of corruption, Global Integrity's diagnostic tools, [your proposed project here] and measurable change on the ground. For more information on the types of proposals that Global Integrity Challenge is accepting and the application process, please visit Impact Challenge.

The application deadline is April 5th, 2009.  A jury will review the proposals and select six to ten finalists. An online public vote will select three winners. Each winner will receive a US $1,000 prize as well as an introduction to the Partnership for Transparency Fund, an organization that provides grants to groups working on corruption issues.  You can learn more about the Impact Challenge at Impact Challenge.

Democracy and good governance begins with each one of us.

Global Integrity is an independent, non-profit organization tracking governance and corruption trends around the world.

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Obama re-releases transparency tool (with links!)

Barack Obama, who is running a transition that has a 79 to 82 percent approval rating, has opened the second round of his Open for Questions tool.

Before we go into examples with links, I'd like to thank MumbaiBurns for his initial exploratory diary on the subject.  I understand that he had some trouble understanding the internet, so I'm trying to help out.

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