Attorney General Andrew Cuomo Announces
ALBANY (December 5, 2007) - Attorney General Andrew Cuomo today unveiled "Project Sunlight," a powerful and easy-to-use website giving the public unprecedented access to the workings of state government and the information it keeps.
"Project Sunlight" allows real-time tracking of seven state databases and the links between them. It gives easy access to information on campaign financing, lobbying, agency contracts, member items, legislation and both for-profit and not-for-profit corporations registered in New York.
"I have pledged to do all that I can to strengthen ethics and enhance transparency in New York State government," said Attorney General Cuomo. "'Project Sunlight' is a critical component of the effort to enhance the public's understanding and oversight of state government. The daunting challenge of plowing through government websites and submitting requests for information has been replaced with an easy-to-use website that allows New Yorkers to examine records instantly and easily. With 'Project Sunlight,' we are lifting the veil on Albany and helping citizens learn about their government."
"Project Sunlight" was an initiative Cuomo announced during his campaign as part of his "Reform Government" agenda. The website's implementation was driven by Blair Horner, the Attorney General's Special Advisor on Policy and Public Integrity. The website unveiled today is a first step in an ongoing "civic dialogue" on how best to improve and expand the site.
"I came to work on 'Project Sunlight' because I shared the Attorney General's view that government must do more to empower its citizens," Horner said. "The success of representative democracy hinges on the informed consent of the public. A government shrouded in secrecy breeds public cynicism. 'Project Sunlight' is a prototype of how government can better work for the people."
The website not only offers experienced and novice users easy access to government data, it also provides important educational materials. 'Project Sunlight' offers information on the basics of state government, how candidates report campaign finances, what lobbyists are required to publicly report, and member items categorized by the name of the sponsoring elected official and the county in which the money is directed. The website also offers a map of the state allowing users to search for member item spending by locality and includes videos to enhance the ease with which users can understand the educational materials. In addition, portions of these educational materials have been translated into Spanish.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said, "We were pleased to support the creation of Project Sunlight as part of the State's successful effort to increase transparency, disclosure and accountability. This initiative builds on the legislative reforms we have enacted in recent years, including ethics and budget reform, and passage of a stronger FOIL law."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said, "Today's initiative builds upon the solid progress and real reforms that this Assembly Majority Conference has achieved. Promoting a more open, accountable and effective state government has been the hallmark of the Assembly Majority's agenda. Project Sunlight is the logical nexus to our continuing efforts to update and reform the proceedings and operations of the People's House. The Assembly Majority is proud to stand with Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. We look forward to further enhancing reforms through expanded television access of legislative proceedings, the use of conference committees and streamlining state government."
Civic organizations, educators and government observers praised the Attorney General's initiative as a significant effort in reforming and opening state government and encouraged other state and local government entities to integrate their data into the "Project Sunlight" website to help it expand and improve well into the future.
Lois Aronstein, Executive Director of AARP New York, said, "Project Sunlight opens the doors of Government to the people of New York State. Transparency and disclosure of government activities are important steps to inform and involve people in the governmental process. We commend Attorney General Andrew Cuomo on his leadership in making this information so readily available to all."
Timothy G. Kremer, executive director of the New York State School Boards Association, said, "We applaud the Attorney General's efforts to increase transparency in government. In addition to providing residents with one-stop access to important information, the Project Sunlight website provides a useful resource for students in New York's schools seeking to learn more about state government."
Seymour P. Lachman, Director of The Governor Hugh L. Carey Center for Government Reform at Wagner College, said, "Project Sunlight's objective is to give all people more transparency in the reforming of state government. It has my strong support."
Robert B. Ward, Deputy Director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government and author of New York State Government: Second Edition, said, "New Yorkers want and need to learn more about what Albany does, and why. Project Sunlight is an important step toward a better-informed citizenry, and no doubt will serve as a model for greater transparency in other states."
Russ Haven, NYPIRG Legislative Counsel, said, "This is like the I-phone for democracy: It puts all the important state databases at your fingertips in a user-friendly kind of way. New Yorkers will have one-stop shopping so they can begin to connect the dots on how state government really works and how it is influenced."
Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League of Women Voters, said, "This is a wonderful tool for the citizens of New York State who want to be able to know how government functions. We applaud the Attorney General for his commitment to open and accessible government and for providing this invaluable tool that will give the citizens more confidence in the integrity of their state government."
Dick Dadey, Executive Director of Citizens Union, said, "Project Sunlight is an amazing new tool that will bring much needed light to the previously dark corners of how people of influence interact with the state and its elected officials. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and his staff are to be highly commended and warmly applauded for creating such a great and accessible citizen resource for use by each and every New Yorker. Now, any one who wants to know and understand the connections among campaign contributions, lobbyists, candidates, and member items, will be able to do so with ease. With this ground breaking program, our state government just got a whole lot more accountable to the citizens it serves."
Edmund J. McMahon, Director of the Manhattan Institute's Empire Center for New York State Policy, said, "Project Sunlight represents a significant and historic breakthrough for openness in New York State government. Thanks to Attorney General Cuomo, New Yorkers will now enjoy dramatically improved access to basic information on how their money is spent. The Project Sunlight website is a tool for making state government far more transparent and accountable in the future. It is a model worthy of emulation by every level of government in the Empire State."
Jessica Wisneski, Campaigns Director for Citizen Action of New York, said, "Attorney General Cuomo's Project Sunlight is a great start in helping the public draw connections between how legislators are responding to lobbyists when they sponsor bills or fund local projects. New Yorkers deserve this great resource and the transparency it provides. We look forward to the evolution of the project and to see just how deep into the intricate connections of money and influence in our state's political system we can go."
Kent Gardner, President and Chief Economist for the Center for Government Research, said, "Project Sunlight is a fabulous resource for the people of New York. The user interface is well-designed and executed. The information it contains dramatically opens up New York State government to the average citizen. While some of us knew of this information and used it routinely, the Project Sunlight software will allow all of us much more efficient access and gives us an ability to analyze a particular issue across sources."
The "Project Sunlight" website goes live at 3 p.m. today at www.sunlightny.com.
"We believe that this website offers New Yorkers easy access to important state governmental information," said Cuomo. "However, we do not believe that this is a final product. It is our hope that this website will not only offer useful information, but begin a statewide civic dialogue on how to make 'Project Sunlight' an even better resource for all New Yorkers. Starting today, my staff will be crisscrossing the state seeking input from all those interested in building upon the foundation we are unveiling today