Which Agency is Most Open?

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Which government agencies are most transparent? Which are the least open? The surprising answers are in a new report from OMB Watch, a good-government group that monitors the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. The report shows that some agencies, such as NASA, the General Services Administration, the State Department, and the Department of Education, are doing a halfway decent job adhering to the minimum requirements of the “Open Government Directive” [OGD] released by the White House late last year. But even NASA scored only 40 of a potential 57.5 points on OMB’s scale, and most agencies did a whole lot worse—including, tellingly, the White House itself:

While agencies did generally meet the minimum requirements of the OGD for the new webpages, several scored particularly low in this review. The bottom five agencies, excluding those that failed to put up any open government page, were the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)/White House, the Department of Agriculture, FDIC, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice… [N]one of the bottom agencies’ have Inspector General reports, a link to Recovery Act data, reports to Congress, budget justifications, or performance results that can be easily found from the new webpages. Similarly, several laggard agencies, including FDIC, Department of Health and Human Services, OMB/White House, as well as others, failed to link to public participation tools for collecting input and open government ideas as mandated by the OGD.

You read that right: the White House agency that promulgated the open government plan has trouble living up to the spirit, if not the letter, of its own rules. That’s pretty sad.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest