Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of an online, easily searchable Project Sunlight database which gives the public an in-depth view of the individuals and entities that are appearing before New York State government on non-legislative matters.
Project Sunlight lists meetings between government officials and outside individuals, entities, and their internal or external representatives related to state procurement, rate-making, regulatory matters, agency-based judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings, and the adoption or repeal of rules and regulations. Lobbying appearances related to passage of the budget or legislation are not covered by Project Sunlight, as they are already the subject of regulation by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics pursuant to the States lobbying laws. Project Sunlight is the only database of its kind in any state that tracks such a broad range of appearances across a state government.
My administration is committed to increasing transparency in state government, and this Project Sunlight database is another important step to that end, Governor Cuomo said. "Sunlight is one of the best disinfectants for the public sector, and with this new information the state is continuing to open the doors of government to New Yorkers.
Pursuant to the Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011, the Project Sunlight database was created and operational as of January 1, 2013, and since that time, as the system was beta tested and State employees were trained, and over 75 state agencies, authorities, public benefit corporations, and the State University of New York and the City University of New York systems have entered data into Project Sunlight. Approximately 6,000 state employees in the covered agencies have been trained in how to report information into the database, and there are over 3,000 entries already available for public search. Entries are entered on a rolling basis by employees at each agency.
A Project Sunlight Policy was developed to facilitate reporting and to clarify what is and is not reported in the database:
|Meetings Included in Project Sunlight:||Meetings NOT Included in Project Sunlight:|
|Appearances related to state procurement||Appearances for the sole purpose of requesting information|
|Appearances related to rate-making||Written or telephone communications|
|Appearances related to regulatory matters||Appearances regarding legislation or the budget, or any intergovernmental interactions|
|Appearances related to agency-based judicial or quasi-judicial proceedings||Appearances that are treated as confidential pursuant to federal or state law, or which, if disclosed, could endanger the life or safety of any person.|
|Appearances related to adoption or repeal of rules and regulations||Participation in meetings that are open to the public (and thus already reported elsewhere)|
The Project Sunlight database builds upon the Governors efforts to empower citizens with the information they need to actively participate in state government.
- In March 2013, Governor Cuomo launched "open.ny.gov," a new and comprehensive state data transparency website that provides user-friendly, one-stop access to data from New York State agencies, localities, and the federal government.
- In 2011, Governor Cuomo launched CitizenConnects to provide an online town hall that encourages New Yorkers to learn about and participate in state government, as well as share ideas to help shape New Yorks future. Governor Cuomos complete schedules since the day he took office are available on CitizenConnects.
- The Governors Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011 which established the Project Sunlight database required elected officials to disclose their firms outside clients and customers doing business with, receiving grants or contracts from, seeking legislation or resolutions from, or involved in cases or proceedings before the State as well as such clients brought to the firm by the public official.
- In 2007, then Attorney General Cuomo launched a Project Sunlight initiative now known as NYOpenGovernment.com to create the states first-ever online database of information related to campaign finance, lobbying activity, state spending, and state contracts.
The Project Sunlight database was developed by the Office of General Services (OGS), in consultation with state agencies including the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). The website, projectsunlight.ny.gov, will also be linked to the recently launched open.ny.gov portal and allows the public to search by key word and export the data.
New York State Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, Governor Cuomo continues to make strides to establish transparency in New York State government. Project Sunlight is an important step towards helping the public better understand state agency operations.
Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the Committee on Open Government, said, The Project Sunlight database serves as an amazing source of information concerning critical activities of state government. If the public wants to know about companies or groups who favor or oppose proposed state agency regulations, the information is there. If there is a need to know about what an agency is buying, its there. If we want to know about lobbying, its easy to find out which firms are most active. And perhaps most amazingly, all of this information is available up to the moment.
Michael Waldman, President of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, said, The Brennan Center for Justice applauds the launch today of the Project Sunlight database, a new, online feature that provides a portal for the disclosure of meetings among government officials, individuals and entities with business before those officials, and their internal or external representatives. The database is an excellent example of how the Governor can use the powers of his office to fashion innovative ways to improve integrity and transparency in Albany, despite political stalemate on key reform issues. The new client database is the first of its kind anywhere and we hope will become a model for transparency and accountability nationally.
Russ Haven, Legislative Counsel for the New York Public Interest Group, said, The new Project Sunlight agency and authority lobbying database adds an important piece of the puzzle to the public's understanding of how special interests attempt to influence government decisions in New York. This new information will supplement the trove of disclosures about lawmakers' outside business activities, recently made public for the first time, helping to connect the dots between those businesses and their efforts to lobby government on behalf of their clients.
Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union, said, Project Sunlights launch is an expected and welcomed consequence of the states 2011 ethics law signed into law by Governor Cuomo with the support of the legislature. It makes known government interactions with interest groups by taking advocacy out of the shadows and putting it online where anyone can see. This website will empower ordinary citizens to monitor who is influencing their public officials, making for better government.
"We're pleased to see the Project Sunlight database website going live," said Common Cause/NY's Executive Director Susan Lerner. "It is a commendable advance towards the goal of complete government transparency and provides useful - and previously difficult to access -information for New Yorkers who want to monitor and understand how our government works."