The American Society of Newspaper Editors in 2005 launched the first national Sunshine Week, a celebration of access to public information that has been held every year since to coincide with the March 16 birthday of James Madison, father of the U.S. Constitution and a key advocate of the Bill of Rights. This year, ASNE (now the American Society of News Editors), The Associated Press, The McClatchy Co., the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Tribune Publishing teamed up to develop a package of stories, photos and graphics to mark the occasion.
All stories except Sunshine Week-Police Emails and Sunshine Week-College Endowments will move in advance on Thursday, March 10. The full list of stories with their live run dates:
Moving Saturday, March 12, for use on Sunday, March 13:
SUNSHINE WEEK-CAMPAIGN TRANSPARENCY
Politicians in Mississippi have used campaign funds to pay for such things as a BMW, an RV and $800 cowboy boots. In Wisconsin, a railroad executive was caught violating contribution limits after an ex-girlfriend he met on a “sugar daddy” dating website reported him for illegally funneling cash to Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign through his employees. Key to the investigation, election officials say, was a requirement that donors disclose where they work — but Republican lawmakers have since wiped out the rule. Meanwhile, “dark money” spending by outside groups that aren’t required to disclose their donors is expected to explode during this presidential election year. States can take action to stem the tide, but few have. Congress could require more disclosure about who is financing campaigns, but it has made no move to do so. Disclosure may be the public’s best and often only remaining way of knowing who is supporting political candidates in the wake of recent court decisions. By Mary Spicuzza (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Jeremy White (The Sacramento Bee). UPCOMING: 1,200 words. Photo.
— Graphic by Tribune, a 2 column by 3.5 inch chart showing “dark money” spending by election cycle. It will be available on the Tribune News Service and through the ASNE web site, www.asne.org
SUNSHINE WEEK-CAMPAIGN TRANSPARENCY-COURTS
HELENA, Mont. — The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which allowed unlimited corporate and union election spending, is now being used six years later to fight state limits on how much money individuals and groups can contribute directly to candidates. Lawsuits against contribution caps have been filed in Alaska, Montana and New Mexico. Those challenges are being buoyed by a federal appeals court ruling last year that cites Citizens United in making it more difficult for states to justify donation limits. By Matt Volz. UPCOMING: 750 words.
Ten lawsuits have piled up this year over net neutrality, making the federal push to assure everyone has equal access to Internet service the most complex, longest-running technology dispute of our time. But nobody should lose sight of what’s at stake in those thousands of pages of legal briefs on download speeds and service rates. The cases will eventually determine how free and free-wheeling our marketplace of information will be. This is Sunshine Week in the U.S., when news organizations place a spotlight on the public’s right to know and size up the state of government openness and access to public records. This year, we should add a more sweeping question to the list: How will the First Amendment survive the dramatic changes in information technology? Complicated disputes are popping up in both predicable and surprising places. By Anders Gyllenhaal, vice president for news at McClatchy. Print, 800 words; digital 1,100 words.
Moving Sunday, March 13, for use on Monday, March 14:
SUNSHINE WEEK-STATEHOUSE SECRECY
State capitols often are referred to as “the people’s house.” Yet when it comes to the availability of records, legislatures frequently put up a no trespassing sign: In many states, lawmakers have exempted themselves from the state public records laws. A recent Associated Press request for emails and daily schedules of the legislative leaders in all 50 states was met with as many denials as approvals. Closed records are just one of many ways state lawmakers dampen transparency for the public. By David A. Lieb. UPCOMING: 1,200 words. Photos.
— BC-US–Sunshine Week-Statehouse Secrecy-States, details of legislative records restrictions in every state.
Photos: Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn and Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard.
SUNSHINE WEEK-STATEHOUSE SECRECY-PENSIONS
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Public pension systems are under scrutiny across the country because of the huge unfunded liabilities many of them pose for taxpayers, but at least the gap is known. What if all the details about a pension system were secret? That’s the case in Kentucky, where lawmakers do not release information about their taxpayer-supported pension fund, including how much former lawmakers are being paid in retirement benefits. By Adam Beam. UPCOMING: 800 words. Photo.
Moving Wednesday, March 16:
SUNSHINE WEEK-POLICE EMAILS
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — An Associated Press story for Sunshine Week a year ago included the example of an editor for a gay newspaper in Florida, who faced numerous obstacles as he tried to learn how often police officers used derogatory terms in their emails. After one agency quoted him a price of nearly $400,000 to fulfill the request, the AP stepped in to help. The two news organizations filed similar requests with several Florida law enforcement agencies to determine if those types of emails were public and, if so, how news organizations and the public could obtain them. A year later and after multiple public records filings, they have their answer. And it’s one that could provide a blueprint for other news organizations around the country as they report on police accountability. By Terry Spencer. UPCOMING: 900 words. Photo.
Moving Thursday, March 17:
SUNSHINE WEEK-COLLEGE ENDOWMENTS
College endowments are under growing scrutiny from all angles. Students are demanding transparency as they push for ethical investing. A recent report shows that many donors want a say in where their money goes. And members of Congress are weighing whether to place greater oversight on the loosely regulated pools of money. But AP records requests show that colleges still guard their investments tightly, sometimes going to great lengths to maintain their privacy. By Collin Binkley. UPCOMING: 700 words. Photos.