Kirsten B. Mitchell, President
Kirsten has had two careers cultivating curiosity and asking questions — first as a journalist and now as an advocate for freedom of information and public access. Questions, she believes, are the sparks that help fuel an informed democracy. Before helping launch the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Ombudsman’s office — the Office of Government Information Services at the National Archives — Kirsten spent the bulk of her journalism career at New York Times-owned regional newspapers. She has also worked at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Sunshine in Government Initiative. Kirsten has served as president of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Access Professionals and as a senior fellow with the Partnership for Public Service. A resident of D.C.’s Ward 6 for 22 years, Kirsten is an alumna of Mary Washington College and American University.
Liz Hempowicz, Vice President and Chair, Government Relations Committee
Liz Hempowicz is the director of public policy at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO), a nonpartisan independent watchdog that investigates and exposes waste, corruption, abuse of power, and when the government fails to serve the public or silences those who report wrongdoing. Liz leads POGO’s policy team and oversees the organization’s legislative reform work, with a focus on whistleblower protections, conflicts of interest, ethics, FOIA, separation of powers, and government accountability. Liz moved to DC in 2011 for law school, which is where she developed a healthy obsession with the Freedom of Information Act and other open government initiatives.
Fritz Mulhauser, Secretary and Co-chair, Legal Committee
Fritz has used the open government laws for decades as an attorney in D.C. at the local ACLU and Legal Counsel for the Elderly. His research and investigative background comes from prior jobs on the House Education & Labor Committee, directing research funding at a federal agency and as an Assistant Director for Program Evaluation at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. For the Coalition, he fields incoming requests for help, writes the blog and the Coalition’s FOIA and Open Meetings Act administrative filings and appeals, and testifies often to the Council. He has degrees from Harvard, Yale Graduate School, Harvard Graduate School of Education (where he co-chaired the Harvard Educational Review), and Georgetown University Law Center. He taught as adjunct professor at American University Washington College of Law and UDC David A. Clarke School of Law. A resident of D.C.’s Ward 6 for many decades, he also treasures his many Friday nights on the bandstands of area honky-tonks and his professional musician membership in the Country Music Association.
William Choyke, Treasurer
Bill Choyke serves as the senior strategist/writer in the Media Relations Division of the American Bar Association, based in Washington, D.C. He spent more than 30 years in journalism and the media, most recently at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk where he was business editor for nearly six years among other duties. He began his professional career at his hometown newspaper in Waukegan, Ill., and worked for 14 years in Washington, providing coverage for Texas newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News, from 1981 to 1989. Bill also worked for Gannett Co. Inc. for nearly 10 years as an editor or marketing director, in addition to several other publications. He was awarded a Batten Media Fellowship at the Darden Business School at the University of Virginia in 1989 and received his MBA in 1991.
Askosua is the President of the NAACP Washington, DC Branch and serves on the NAACP National Board of Directors. As a nationally renowned champion for racial justice and equality, she leads the strategic implementation of diversity, equity and civil rights advocacy in health, education, climate, environment, housing, criminal justice, and economic development.
Professionally, Akosua has senior-leadership expertise as a Director at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, managing financial operations and over 200 contracts within a $603 million budget. Her professional experience also includes the U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Aviation Administration and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island. At the U.S. Census Bureau, she implemented a $319 million communications campaign reaching BIPOC audiences in 28 different languages. Akosua is the Founder & CEO of Crimson Solutions LLC, a company dedicated to providing transformative and innovative strategic visioning and corporate reimagining specializing in advancing Racial Justice, Diversity, Equity & Inclusions (JEDI).
Akosua is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University with her Bachelors and MBA in Global Business and Organizational Leadership.
Bob is an attorney in the District, focusing on media-related legal issues, including access to government information. As a member of the Coalition board since 2009, he has worked on bills to create the D.C. Office of Open Government, and to strengthen the FOI and Open Meetings acts. He is a public member of the D.C. Open Government Advisory Group. From 1982 to 1991, Bob was assistant director for publications and a staff attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, where he advised lawyers and journalists, wrote several amicus curiae briefs on the media’s right to access court proceedings and records. He was also a newspaper reporter and editor for 12 years. Bob is a member of the National FOI Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Chad is a media lawyer in Washington, D.C. who, in addition to working with new and legacy news organizations, regularly advises and represents non-governmental organizations engaged in public advocacy and speech. As part of his practice, he has litigated public-records and court access issues in the District, in numerous states, and in the federal courts. Prior to attending law school, Chad worked as a journalist in Upstate New York and in Washington, D.C. Chad is currently a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP. His firm bio is here.
Robert Vinson Brannum
Robert is a native Washingtonian and a strong believer in community service. He is a retired military veteran of the U.S. Air Force. Robert is an advocate for transparency in all levels of government, supports full voting rights for the residents of the District of Columbia and speaks out on District issues including matters relating to public safety/emergency preparedness; high quality public education, justice and human rights. Along with serving as a board member of the D.C. Open Government Coalition, Robert is an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner – ANC5E08; Chairman, NAACP-DC Veterans Committee; Commissioner, DC Commission on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday; Board Member, DC Veterans for Statehood, Inc.; President Emeritus, DC Federation of Civic Associations, Inc.; Former President, Bloomingdale Civic Association, Inc.; Chairman Emeritus, 5th District Citizens’ Advisory Council, Inc.; Chairman Emeritus, Ward 5 Democratic Committee; Former Interim Chairman, DC Commission on National and Community Service; Former Board Member, North Capital Neighborhood Development Corporation, Inc.; Former Board Member, DC Crime Solvers, Inc.; Incorporator and Founding Board Member, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Inc.; and Founding Board Member, Veterans and Military Families for Progress, Inc.
Will is the Senior Specialist for Peace and Technology for Mercy Corps, the humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding agency. His work focuses on social media and conflict, including responses to disinformation, hate speech, and violent extremism. Among his past work roles, he led programs on media and conflict and Internet Freedom for Internews and headed the freedom of information project at the National Security Archive. Will has worked on freedom of information in countries as varied as Japan, India, Romania, and South Africa. He has trained personnel on freedom of information for the US Justice Department and World Bank, among others, and was twice elected president of the American Society of Access Professionals. A Ward 1 resident, Will is a member of St. Augustine Catholic Church and the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN), and was an assistant baseball coach for the Cardozo Clerks. He filed his first DC FOIA request to DCRA in 2004.
James McLaughlin (Co-chair, Legal Committee)
Jim is deputy general counsel of The Washington Post, where his regular areas of practice include libel law, the First Amendment, state and federal FOIA, subpoenas, newsgathering liability, and privacy. He also oversees the Post’s lobbying and legislative interests as its director of government affairs. Before coming to the Post in 2006, Jim worked at two Washington, D.C. law firms and as a legal fellow at The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. A proud D.C. resident for 17 years, he is a graduate of Amherst College and Yale Law School (where he was a senior editor of the Yale Law Journal), and currently teaches media law as an adjunct faculty member at Georgetown University Law Center.
Sandra is an international development consultant with experience supporting government, non-government and private sector organizations in strengthening their ability to build team and institutional capacity across disciplines. Sandra’s work focuses on the design and implementation of data and transparency efforts and systems in order to achieve institutional goals. Most recently, with the Institute for Development Impact (I4DI), she serves as the Open Data expert for a USAID-funded program. The team develops civic technology with communities in Cambodia to influence government policy and citizen behavior, by leveraging government-collected solid waste management data.
Sandra previously worked in the World Bank’s Governance Global Practice and Corporate Finance groups, leading open data, knowledge management, and capacity building initiatives. Sandra’s community work includes serving on Ward education councils and formerly a community representative of DC Mayor’s Open Government Advisory Group. More at Sandra’s LinkedIn bio and on Twitter @sandramoscoso.
Miranda is an award-winning, independent journalist who has written extensively about open government issues, in her “State Secrets” series for Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. The series was honored in 2017 with the Society for Professional Journalists’ Sunshine Award. She was named the best local government reporter by the Maryland, Delaware, DC Press Association in 2013 while working for The Washington Post. In 2021, Miranda was the recipient of an Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship and a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism for a series of stories about the risks to police accountability when civilian records are expunged, and police discipline records are allowed to be erased. She is leading the Coalition’s efforts to provide open government training to anyone interested in learning how to get information from the D.C. government. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and was a Ford Foundation Fellow at Yale Law School, where she received a Master of Studies in Law.
Tom is the American Bar Association’s Strategic Advisor for Governmental Affairs and Global Programs, after serving as Director of the Governmental Affairs Office for over a decade. Before that, he was a partner in the law firm of Ropes & Gray LLP, where his work included counseling, litigation, and lobbying on access to government information and privacy. He has litigated FOIA cases against the CIA, State Department, and other agencies; testified on FOIA reform before the U.S. Congress; advised clients on information issues; and authored a number of works on information and privacy. He has advised on drafting and implementing open government information legislation abroad, co-authored a portfolio on business uses of the FOIA, and taught classes and courses on the FOIA.
After receiving his J.D. from the University of Texas Law School, Tom began his career in the U.S. Department of Justice. He then served as general counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and various subcommittees. In 1974 he was the principal Senate staff counsel involved in developing the 1974 FOIA Amendments.
Tom was inducted into the First Amendment Center’s Freedom of Information Hall of Fame and received the American Library Association’s “Champion of Public Access” award, among other honors. He is founding president of the D.C. Open Government Coalition, serves on the Board of the National Freedom of Information Coalition, chairs the Steering Committee of Open the Government, and is a member of the National Archives FOIA Federal Advisory Committee.
The Coalition was established in 2009 when Tom Susman, the founding president, convened several dozen community members and found enthusiasm for formalizing advocacy and public education efforts around open records, open meetings and government transparency generally in the District of Columbia. The Washington office of the Boston-based law firm of Ropes & Gray provided pro bono help for incorporation and has continued as Coalition general counsel.
Early activities included advocacy for the Open Meetings Act that passed in 2010 after an earlier attempt failed in 2006. Later years saw annual advocacy for resources and autonomy for the Office of Open Government to enforce the Open Meetings Act, review FOIA implementation and generally lead transparency work throughout the executive branch.
As the community debated in 2015 the extent of public access to video from police body-worn cameras, the Coalition played a strong role (providing research on privacy and access to police video nationwide) leading to the Council adopting the most open access anywhere.
In 2018 the Coalition forecast that proposed changes to the Open Government Office would reduce its independence and unsuccessfully opposed the changes in repeated testimony to the Council and meetings with members.
In 2019 the Coalition and others successfully opposed drastic changes to D.C. FOIA, the open records law, and advocated for expanding its coverage to include charter schools.
In 2020 the D.C. Council voted to apply the Open Meetings Act to trustees’ meetings at D.C. charter schools, as the Coalition and community partners had urged for years.
Following years of advocacy, in 2021 the Police Reform Commission recommended and the D.C. Council Chairman introduced legislation opening police discipline records. Though the police leadership opposed it (see Chief Contee’s remarks at the Coalition’s Summit conference during Sunshine Week in 2022), with community and Coalition support, the Council included this landmark advance in police transparency in the Comprehensive Policing and Justice Reform Act passed in December 2022. Access will be open to past records via FOIA and the Office of Police Complaints will open a new online database of sustained complaints going forward in 2024.
D.C. Open Government Coalition Presidents
Tom Susman: 2009-2012
Kathy Patterson: 2012-2014
Kevin Goldberg: 2014-2016
Cori Zarek: 2016-2018
Tom Susman: 2018-2022
Kirsten Mitchell: 2022-present
Press contact: Thomas Susman, 202-365-1291
A comprehensive file of Coalition advocacy and research is elsewhere on the site.
The Coalition has no job opportunities at this time.
How you can help
- The Coalition does not have formal memberships. Supporters are welcome to attend monthly Coalition board meetings to learn of our activities. Legal, government relations and community outreach committees also meet occasionally and guests are welcome in meetings and related work between meetings
- Work on a Coalition project—writing for our blog, studying a topic for public education or upcoming Council action, or diving into a part of D.C. government that needs sunshine.
- Give testimony about an open government topic. The Coalition testifies several times each year to the D.C. Council. More citizen voices are always useful, to show how open government benefits the community.
- Attend community events such as the annual Open Government summit held in March at the time of nationwide Sunshine Week celebrations.
- Stay in touch by adding our Twitter, Facebook and other addresses, and adding your email to our list to get updates directly.
- What is open government? Originally advocates emphasized that “open” government was responsive to requests for records in government files and would let people know about and attend meetings of executive and legislative branches of government. With coming of the Internet, new emphasis is on online access to government records and any other data in bulk. “Openness” also implies a two-way process, in which government is both open with information as well as open to citizen influence.
- Does the Coalition work on problems of federal government transparency? No.
- What can the Coalition do for me? The Coalition is an organization of volunteers, which limits our efforts on any particular matter or controversy. We do answer questions promptly and where we can’t help, refer people to other resources. We try hard to answer all inquiries where individuals seek help to understand the rules and get the access they want. In our advocacy we amplify the voices of individuals so that officials know we want government to be open for all. If you’re a reporter without legal backup, we can often provide useful advice about getting government data for your purposes. In cases that raise important questions of law we try to locate legal help and we join amicus briefs of others.
- Doesn’t transparency hinder government, slow down decisions and cause officials to just find better ways to hide their actions? Every law we have advocated for allows government officials to do their work without major interference. We understand privacy is sometimes needed; even the Constitution was written in strict secrecy.
Mail: 3901 Argyle Ter., N.W. , Washington, DC 20011