NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Grading the Government's Data Publication Practices

November 14, 2012

Throughout his political career, President Obama has promised measures to make the government more accountable. His ideas for hope and change originated from the desire to make the government more transparent to the public. However, since entering office, Obama has done little to improve transparency, says Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute.

  • The Obama administration committed to improving the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Surprisingly, 19 of 20 cabinet-level agencies disobeyed the public disclosure laws under the act.
  • Only eight of 57 federal agencies met the request for federal documents within the 20-day disclosure windows.
  • In 2009 the White House announced a blog called the Open Government Initiative to get the public's input on different policies.
  • However, Obama simply ignored those comments in the first year of his administration.

The Cato Institute conducted a study to look at high-value data for purposes of government transparency and then graded Congress' performance on published information in terms of how transparent they were.

  • House membership: C-
  • Senate: A-
  • Committees and Subcommittees: C-
  • Meeting records: D-
  • Bills: B-
  • Amendments: F
  • Motions: F
  • Decisions and Votes: B+

Transparency for government spending and budgeting fared much worse, with many subjects getting D's and F's. House Republicans, which manage a smaller segment of the government, have made farther strides in making the government more transparent.

Source: Jim Harper, "Grading the Government's Data Publication Practices," Cato Institute, November 5, 2012.


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