Attorney General Cuomo Unveils Sunlight Version 2.0 As Part Of Ongoing Efforts To Enhance Government Accountability And Restore Public Trust

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 7, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled Sunlight 2.0, a new version of his government accountability and transparency Web site that enhances the public’s ability to access and review state and local government information.

Sunlight 2.0 features new data, a more user-friendly format, and innovative features to increase openness and accountability. The revamped Web site provides the public easy access to information on their tax dollars, elected officials, legislation, and other state business.

“This re-tooled Web site increases accountability and openness, and gives the public the tools to hold officials more accountable, which is more important than ever before,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “When Project Sunlight was first launched, I said that it was not a final product, but a foundation for making an even better resource for all New Yorkers. It is vital that Sunlight continues to expand and evolve as we incorporate new ideas and information.”

Project Sunlight was created in 2007 to take the business of state government out from behind closed doors and into the open for public review. Among other things, the Web site offers information to the public on how their tax dollars are spent, the work of lobbyists, how political campaigns are financed, and who is getting state contracts.

Many of the upgrades are a result of the feedback from the public on how to improve and expand the site. Project Sunlight has been redesigned to make finding information and navigating the site more user-friendly. The enhanced version now allows the public to find contact information and Web links for county, city, town and village officials through a new easy-to-use interactive map.

Additionally, a vast amount of new data has been added to the site, including the 2009-2010 state budget. As part of an ongoing review by the Office of the Attorney General more than 3,000 completed member item dispositions from the 2006-2007 state budget are now available for public review, as well as all bill jackets from 2007. Bill jackets may include a sponsor’s memo justifying the introduction of the bill, counsels’ statements, state agencies’ official positions, study groups’ comments, as well as the opinions of bar associations, lobbyists, corporations and private individuals.

These new features and data are in addition to the records already provided on campaign financing, lobbying, agency contracts, member items, legislation and both for-profit and not-for-profit corporations registered in New York. Project Sunlight was initially managed by New York’s top good government advocate Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. At the time, Horner was serving as the Attorney General’s Special Advisor on Policy and Public Integrity. Nearly 70,000 visitors have used Project Sunlight to find government information.

Since its initial launch Sunlight 2.0 has added:

  • A new interactive map which allows users to easily locate their local officials, including contact information and links to their Web sites
  • Links to the 2009-2010 state budget
  • All 10,036 member items in 2008-2009 state budget, and 3,000 completed member item dispositions from the Attorney General’s review of the 2006-2007 state budget
  • An enhanced member items map which allows for multiple years to be searched simultaneously
  • An interactive map showing the number and types of governments in each county
  • A Smart Search feature which allows users to overcome variations in words due to misspellings, transcriptions, transpositions, acronyms, phonetics, sequence differences, nicknames and many other common errors found in campaign finance disclosure reports
  • The ability to export search data to an Excel spreadsheet, making it easier for the public to use
  • Spanish translation

Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League of Women Voters, said: “League members have used Project Sunlight with great success and welcome these and future upgrades to its data and usability. We applaud Attorney General Cuomo for his efforts to reform state government through this web site. The public has a right to know how their government functions and Project Sunlight is an important resource that makes valuable information easy to find.”

New York Public Interest Research Group Legislative Counsel Russ Haven, said: “Project Sunlight continues to grow into a wider and deeper resource, with the latest additions adding more state legislative bills and access to local government information. It’s a welcoming gateway for New Yorkers to find out what’s going on and who is influencing government in New York. Kudos to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and his staff for their ongoing commitment to shedding sunlight in New York State.”

Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/New York, said: “Public access to our state government’s decision-making process and the considerations that impact those decisions is critical to a thriving and vigorous democracy. For that reason, we commend Attorney General Cuomo’s continued development of Project Sunlight, a valuable public resource. Project Sunlight collects, standardizes, and makes available state information that is otherwise scattered throughout various official web pages and brings them together in an easy to use website. It exemplifies the old adage that ‘the sum can be greater than its parts.’ Common Cause is pleased to work with Attorney General Cuomo to expand and improve this wonderful resource as we look forward to a day when it is such a permanent fixture in Albany that no one can imagine doing without it.”

Edmund J. McMahon, Director of the Manhattan Institute’s Empire Center for New York State Policy, said: “With the latest improvements to Project Sunlight, Attorney General Cuomo continues to play a leadership role in government transparency efforts in New York. Sunlight Version 2.0 further sharpens an already impressive disclosure and accountability tool that can serve as a model for governments across the nation.”

Project Sunlight is more than just a repository of government information; it is also an educational resource. The Web site 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. It also includes a series of videos to enhance the ease with which users can understand the educational materials.