The watchdogs protecting American democracy and informing the public


The past decade has shown the world again and again how important anti-corruption watchdogs and nonpartisan advocates for transparency and accountability are for defending civil liberties and public access to information, online and off.

The stress test that the Trump administration has posed for good governance in the United States has activated the immune system of democracy, from investigative journalism that use reporting and Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to inform the public to ethics and civil liberties watchdogs that use the court system to check and balance creeping illiberalism and authoritarianism. A virtual “open government “state of the union” for Sunshine Week in 2020 laid out where our union stands – and showed who’s working on reforms.

The following list of nonprofits is not meant to be comprehensive nor exhaustive, but to remind anyone wondering about the strength of American civil society that open government endures in the United States beyond any singular program, policy, organization, visionary leader, or administration – and provide links to donate to each of them, if you click through.

Open Government and Accountability

OpenTheGovernment leads coalitions that decry regression or support reforms.  The Center for Responsive Politics adds sunshine to campaign finance, publishing open government data at The Project on Government Oversight fights corruption, defends the Freedom of Information Act, and works to improve oversight and government integrity in all three branches of government. MuckRock makes it easy to make Freedom of Information Act requests, publishes the responses, reports on the documents and data its users bring into the sunshine, and much more. liberates data and laws and files suit to ensure public can access and speak the law. The Demand Progress Education Fund (which employs the author of this post) seeks to protect and extend Internet freedom, civil rights, democracy and open government.

Journalism and Press Freedom

ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity report in the public’s interest, informing us of what is being done in our name by governments and holding corporations accountable. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Committee to Protect Journalists, and Reporters without Borders protect and defend press freedom, bringing important freedom of information lawsuits and supporting journalists. The Institute for Investigative Editors (IRE) is the nation’s largest group of watchdogs, improving the quality of investigative reporting. IRE sustains the National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting (NICAR), which plays a key role in increasing the capacity of journalists around the nation to report on data as a source.

Civil Liberties and Privacy

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Brennan Center, the Campaign Legal Center, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Privacy International defend civil liberties, privacy, Internet freedom, election integrity, public access to public information, and much more.

This piece was adapted from an post explaining how to support open government on #GivingTuesday that originally appeared on

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