Transparency Around the World

It's Sunshine Week again, and in that spirit I want to share a recent story about open government. Two weeks ago, the chief of staff for a member of the Republic of Korea Assembly looked over at me and, through a translator, said he was going to tell me why their political system is better than America's.

It was an interesting moment for me. At the meeting were three additional National Assembly staffers, and I listened attentively as the translator related the gist of the argument:

  • Corporations in South Korea are prohibited from spending money on political activity.
  • Individuals can spend up to $5,000 per year on Assembly races, and they can only give to four candidates per year.
  • Any spending above $3,000 must be disclosed.

How did I find myself in this situation? For starters, it wasn't the first time! One of the many pleasant aspects about working at the Sunlight Foundation is the simple act of talking about open government with other interested parties. In this case, it was a delegation of staffers from Korea. The trip was arranged by World Learning, as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program administered by the U.S. State Department. Yesterday's was the fifth such meeting I've participated in since I started at Sunlight--previously, my colleagues and I discussed transparency with a delegation of Dutch officials, an activist/videographer from Australia, a political science professor from Colombia, and officials from Latin America.

I was a little playful in that last paragraph, but the meetings are more than just "pleasant."

Read the rest here.