Sunshine Week 2008 Hits the Campaign Trail: Candidates from President to Mayor to Be Quizzed on Access Issues

Actors, Scientists, Researchers Join Growing Call for Open Government WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Sunshine Week alliance has begun a yearlong Sunshine Campaign project to bring the discussion of open government issues...


Actors, Scientists, Researchers Join Growing Call for Open Government

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Sunshine Week alliance has begun a yearlong Sunshine Campaign project to bring the discussion of open government issues to election campaigns from president to local city council. While the initiative expands the scope of Sunshine Week to cover the entire election season, specific events and coverage are still planned for Sunshine Week, March 16-22, 2008.

Sunshine Week is a non-partisan open government initiative led by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, with online and broadcast media, public officials, celebrities, civic groups, non-profits, libraries, schools, religious leaders and others. It is primarily funded by a challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Sunshine Campaign is designed to spur campaign conversation -- and commitment -- to open government during the presidential race and continuing on through to city council contests. Journalists, and anyone else with the opportunity, are encouraged to ask every candidate for public office to explain his or her positions on open government and Freedom of Information issues.

The replies, sent in to Sunshine Week by participants and observers, will be used to develop a database of presidential statements, positions, votes and views across a variety of open government issues as a running reference. Independent research on previous statements, votes and other available relevant FOI data also will be in the database.

During one of its initial Sunshine Campaign activities, Sunshine Week teamed with The Creative Coalition to discuss open government issues at the recent Democratic presidential candidates' debate in Las Vegas .

Among those attending a dinner co-sponsored by The Creative Coalition and Sunshine Week were Coalition co-president and actor Joe Pantoliano and actors/members Tim Daly , Kerry Washington , James Denton , Matthew Modine and Richard Schiff . Other guests included Craig Newmark , founder of Craigslist; Eric Alterman , author and columnist for The Nation; and writer, producer and pundit Lawrence O'Donnell Jr.

Sunshine Week and The Creative Coalition are exploring opportunities to partner for other activities promoting government transparency during the 2008 presidential campaign.

"Open government is the very essence of our democracy. We're proud to partner with Sunshine Week to ensure that every citizen has access to information and the ability to express their First Amendment right to free speech," said Robin Bronk , executive director of The Creative Coalition.

Sunshine Week also has sent a questionnaire on a variety of open government issues has been sent to the campaign offices of the 16 leading Democratic and Republican candidates. They have been asked to respond by mid-December. Answers will be posted on the Sunshine Week Web site as they are received.

Promotional materials featuring Sunshine Campaign "spokesmammals" Ronnie and Donnie (representing a Republican elephant and Democratic donkey) will be available to participants. Sunshine Campaign items will include print and Web ads, T-shirts and other clothing, buttons, campaign yard signs and stickers.

Resources such as suggested questions and links to additional material to help get people involved in the project are on the Sunshine Week Web site, www.sunshineweek.org.

Significant support for the Sunshine Campaign's online database of candidates' positions on open government is being provided by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. In 2007, the Archive's Mexico Project oversaw the launch of Mexico Abierto, a media initiative modeled on Sunshine Week. Now, the candidate database is being built with the help of the project's transparency coordinator, Emilene Martinez-Morales, and it will serve as a model for a similar issues database in Mexico .

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