Virginia Coalition for Open Government

We are a nonprofit alliance formed to promote expanded access to government records, meetings and other proceedings at the state and local level. Our efforts are focused solely on local/state information access. While we do some lobbying (within limits imposed by IRS rules), our primary work is educational. The Coalition was formed in 1996, after a year-long organizing effort.

Our board of directors represents the state’s access activists and friends of open government, including Virginia’s librarians, genealogists, broadcasters, newspapers and the public at large. Start-up funding was provided by the Virginia Press Association, the Virginia Association of Broadcasters, Media General, the Landmark Communications Foundation, America Online, all of the major in-state newspapers, public radio and television stations, a number of commercial stations and other friends of open government.

Supporters also include Dominion, Appalachian Power, SunTrust, LexisNexis, Christian & Barton, Conservation Voters League, Woods Rogers, Gentry Locke.

Executive Director: Megan Rhyne

Virginia Public Access Project

The nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project connects Virginians to nonpartisan information about Virginia politics in easily understood ways.

VPAP was founded in 1997 on one simple premise: Because Virginia’s ethics laws rely on disclosure, it is imperative that citizens have easy access to public documents related to money in politics.

VPAP is fiercely nonpartisan. It has no dog in any political fight. Its singular focus is to give Virginians the information they need to make informed decisions.

VPAP’s approach is grounded in facts taken directly from public documents such as campaign finance reports, election returns, conflicts disclosures and lobbyist registrations. VPAP breaks down the silos of government data and weaves in other information such as newspaper articles.

This integrated approach provides the public with unique and valuable insights on politicians and issues that impact their families and communities.

VPAP’s excellence and nonpartisan approach have won awards from numerous organizations, including the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the Wilder School of Public Policy at VCU and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Virginia Coalition for Open GovernmentVirginia Coalition for Open Government

We are a nonprofit alliance formed to promote expanded access to government records, meetings and other proceedings at the state and local level. Our efforts are focused solely on local/state information access. While we do some lobbying (within limits imposed by IRS rules), our primary work is educational. The Coalition was formed in 1996, after a year-long organizing effort.

Our board of directors represents the state’s access activists and friends of open government, including Virginia’s librarians, genealogists, broadcasters, newspapers and the public at large. Start-up funding was provided by the Virginia Press Association, the Virginia Association of Broadcasters, Media General, the Landmark Communications Foundation, America Online, all of the major in-state newspapers, public radio and television stations, a number of commercial stations and other friends of open government.

Supporters also include Dominion, Appalachian Power, SunTrust, LexisNexis, Christian & Barton, Conservation Voters League, Woods Rogers, Gentry Locke.

Executive Director: Megan Rhyne

Summary

We are a nonprofit alliance formed to promote expanded access to government records, meetings and other proceedings at the state and local level. Our efforts are focused solely on local/state information access. While we do some lobbying (within limits imposed by IRS rules), our primary work is educational. The Coalition was formed in 1996, after a year-long organizing effort.

Our board of directors represents the state’s access activists and friends of open government, including Virginia’s librarians, genealogists, broadcasters, newspapers and the public at large. Start-up funding was provided by the Virginia Press Association, the Virginia Association of Broadcasters, Media General, the Landmark Communications Foundation, America Online, all of the major in-state newspapers, public radio and television stations, a number of commercial stations and other friends of open government.

Supporters also include Dominion, Appalachian Power, SunTrust, LexisNexis, Christian & Barton, Conservation Voters League, Woods Rogers, Gentry Locke.

Executive Director: Megan Rhyne

About

Twitter

Web

Website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

2021 Legislative Bill Chart

Source: VCOG website

News

Source: Website

Transparency News

Our free daily email alert will keep you up to date with right-to-know, transparency, First Amendment and related issues in Virginia and around the country. The alert goes out 5 mornings a week and provides links to news stories, articles and commentaries, as well as updates on open government issues at the General Assembly or interim study commissions.

Sunshine Report

The Sunshine Report goes out at the beginning of each month and includes updates on the work of the Coalition, summaries of the most significant open government stories of the previous month and greater explanations of current hot topics.

January 2021
FOIA Council endorses some proposals, rejects others.

The FOIA Council lent its divided support to a proposal that would expand the number of times and circumstances under which an individual member of a public body can call into a meeting instead of attending in person. VCOG does not support the measure and actively opposed an attempt by a letter-writing campaign to remove any and all barriers to call-in participation. The measure was pushed as one that would allow more women to run for political office, but council member Bill Coleburn — both the mayor of Blackstone and publisher of the local newspaper — pushed back on that notion: “You don’t go knockin’ on doors and say ‘You know what, if I get elected by golly I’m going to legislate through my laptop and fight for you.”

The council unanimously supported a measure VCOG worked on with the Virginia Press Association, Virginia Municipal League and Virginia Association of Counties to amend the existing rules for virtual meetings held during an emergency to allow public bodies to discuss more than just the specific emergency. The pandemic laid bare the problem of extended emergencies and the inability of public bodies to talk about providing the everyday services of government.

The council endorsed a proposal to clarify that citizen contact information would not be disclosed when citizens sign-up for one-way communication from their elected representatives, but the council rejected an attempt that would have allowed government to redact the contact information of citizens whenever they interact with government officials or employees. VCOG spoke against the measure.

Finally, the council unanimously endorsed a proposal to provide some measure of access to criminal investigative files that are no longer active or ongoing, a measure VCOG strongly supports.

— Megan Rhyne

Resources

Source: VCOG webpage

Virginia Press Association’s Reporters’ Guide to FOIA (VPA website)
Click here

Need help with federal FOIA? VCOG’s focus on the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, but this link will take you to an easy to understand info-graphic on the federal FOIA process. (blog on Logikcull)
Click here

How does Virginia compare with other states? Check out the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Open Government Guide, which breaks down all state laws along categories. (RCFP website)
Click here

What kind of FOIA training do police chiefs get? Check out the FOIA guide for the Association of Chiefs of Police (note: it has not been updated since 2006) (Chiefs of Police website)
Click here

What kind of FOIA training does the Virginia Municipal League give its members? (VML website)
Click here

In February 2019, the Department of Education issued this 37-question FAQ on FERPA (the Federal Educational Rights & Privacy Act) and student scholastic information. (VCOG website)
Click here

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Virginia Public Access Project 3Virginia Public Access Project

The nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project connects Virginians to nonpartisan information about Virginia politics in easily understood ways.

VPAP was founded in 1997 on one simple premise: Because Virginia’s ethics laws rely on disclosure, it is imperative that citizens have easy access to public documents related to money in politics.

VPAP is fiercely nonpartisan. It has no dog in any political fight. Its singular focus is to give Virginians the information they need to make informed decisions.

VPAP’s approach is grounded in facts taken directly from public documents such as campaign finance reports, election returns, conflicts disclosures and lobbyist registrations. VPAP breaks down the silos of government data and weaves in other information such as newspaper articles.

This integrated approach provides the public with unique and valuable insights on politicians and issues that impact their families and communities.

VPAP’s excellence and nonpartisan approach have won awards from numerous organizations, including the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the Wilder School of Public Policy at VCU and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Summary

The nonprofit Virginia Public Access Project connects Virginians to nonpartisan information about Virginia politics in easily understood ways.

VPAP was founded in 1997 on one simple premise: Because Virginia’s ethics laws rely on disclosure, it is imperative that citizens have easy access to public documents related to money in politics.

VPAP is fiercely nonpartisan. It has no dog in any political fight. Its singular focus is to give Virginians the information they need to make informed decisions.

VPAP’s approach is grounded in facts taken directly from public documents such as campaign finance reports, election returns, conflicts disclosures and lobbyist registrations. VPAP breaks down the silos of government data and weaves in other information such as newspaper articles.

This integrated approach provides the public with unique and valuable insights on politicians and issues that impact their families and communities.

VPAP’s excellence and nonpartisan approach have won awards from numerous organizations, including the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the Wilder School of Public Policy at VCU and the Society of Professional Journalists.

About

The Virginia Public Access Project grew out of a joint effort by the state’s five largest newspapers to track campaign contributions.

The effort was vital because Virginia is one of a handful of states with no contribution limits. Anything goes – as long as candidates identify donors who give more than $100. The system was built upon the premise that by making donor information public, candidates will police themselves to avoid the perception that they are beholden to one particular donor or to donors in general. The flaw, of course, was the public had no meaningful access to the information contained in disclosure reports, which at the time were crammed in file cabinets at the State Board of Elections.

In 1997, David Poole took a leave of absence from his job as a political reporter for The Roanoke Times to build a campaign finance database for the newspapers. Poole envisioned transforming the database into a public resource that would provide meaningful public access. Poole recruited a Board of Directors who shared his vision, and VPAP was incorporated in April 1997.

VPAP transformed campaign finance disclosure in Virginia. Over the years, VPAP has expanded its mission to connect Virginians with nonpartisan information about politics.

Strategic Plan

Twitter

Contact

Locations

Office
1209 E. Cary Street, Suite 200 Richmond, VA 23219
Phone: 804.353.4300
Fax:  804.331.0103

Web

Website, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook

Videos

Voter participation in Virginia

By: VPAP Updates

What if the region’s were resized based on population?

Published on July 31, 2017
By: VPAP Updates

Election information

Source: Webpage

Money in VA Politics

Source: Webpage

Engage in Your Democracy 1

General Assembly

Source: Webpage

VPAP Issues

Lobbying

Source: Webpage

Lobbying in Virginia
Those who are paid more than $500 a year to influence legislative or executive actions, including procurement, are required to register annually with the state. Exceptions

Registrations expire each year on April 30. Each year, lobbyists fill out forms intended to disclose the matters they sought to influence, how much they were paid and how much they spent on things such as entertainment. Details

Who Hires Lobbyists?
Some 1,178 clients retained lobbyists in 2019-20.

A Typical Lobbyist’s Portfolio
There were 2,865 individuals who registered to lobby in 2019-20.

Lobbyist Status

Visuals

Source: Webpage

VA News

Source: Webpage

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