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Open Government
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The oral arguments were about a First Amendment challenge to California's charitable donor disclosure law.

Supreme Court hears case that could endanger election transparency rules

The Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case that could have lasting implications for transparency in election spending, even though that issue is not part of the debate.

Two conservative advocacy groups, the Americans for Prosperity Foundation and the Thomas More Law Center, are challenging a California law that requires nonprofits (like themselves) to confidentially report their largest donors to state regulatory officers, claiming it violates their free speech rights.

While this case is about the reporting rules for charities and other tax-exempt organizations, good-government advocates are concerned about a decision opening the door for successful challenges to campaign finance transparency rules — or to the disclosure requirements for the millionaires, businesses and advocacy groups that spend exorbitant amounts to influence elections.

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Open Government
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Donald Trump's March 2017 address in Louisville is not included in the official record of his public statements, just like all of his other political rallies.

He loved his rallies, so why won't Trump make them part of the historical record?

O'Brien is an assistant professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin.
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Big Picture
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President-elect Joe Biden, who with Jill Biden marked Veterans Day on Wednesday, has come under criticism for not making democracy reform a priority.

Anxious democracy reformers pressing Biden to make more of their causes

Joe Biden has plenty of campaign promises to keep, beyond the obvious and enormous top priorities of corralling the coronavirus and stabilizing the economy. And that's made democracy reform groups, which have never counted him as an impassioned ally, newly skeptical their priorities will get addressed in his new administration.

Their anxiety has come to the surface this week. A coalition of 170 progressive good governance and voting rights organizations asked the president-elect to elevate a collection of fix-the-system proposals into his first 100 days' agenda. Separately, one of the most influential such groups, RepresentUs, lambasted the Biden transition for "an omission of epic proportions" by giving short shrift to the issues it cares about.

Their impatience, just days after Biden's victory became clear, underscores the precarious position the cause of fixing democracy's dysfunction has in the public policy agenda.

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Open Government
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Sunlight Foundation, a transparency trailblazer, closes after 15 years

The sun has set on one of the earliest and most influential Washington good-government groups: the Sunlight Foundation, which pushed transparency in all levels of government and politics as an essential cure for democracy's problems.

Sunlight's "role is no longer essential to its original central mission," Board Chairman Michael Klein said in announcing the group's shuttering last week. "Virtually all of the activities and staff of Sunlight have been transferred to other engaged institutions, or closed."

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