Thomas Susman, President
Tom serves as the American Bar Association’s International Policy Coordinator and Strategic Advisor to the Governmental Affairs Office 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 and serves on the Board of the National Freedom of Information Center and on the Steering Committee of OpenTheGovernment.
Liz Hempowicz, Vice President (also Chair, Government Relations Committee)
Liz 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 and government accountability. Liz moved to D.C. in 2011 for law school where she developed a healthy obsession with the Freedom of Information Act and other open government initiatives. Liz volunteers with Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop’s monthly “Write Night” program.
Fritz Mulhauser, Secretary (also 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 a House committee staff and at GAO. He responds to most requests for Coalition help with specific problems and writes the Coalition’s blog.
William Choyke, Treasurer
Bill is 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. Choyke 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.
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, Mr. Becker 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. He is a member of the National FOI Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists.
Chad has practiced media law in Washington, D.C. since 2003, working with new and legacy media organizations as well as other nonprofit and for-profit entities engaged in public advocacy and speech. As part of that practice, he has litigated public-records and court access issues in D.C., numerous states, and the federal courts. Chad is currently a partner at Ballard Spahr LLP. Prior to attending law school, Chad worked as a news reporter both in upstate New York and in Washington, D.C.
Robert is a native Washingtonian and a strong believer in community service. He is a retired 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 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; 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.
Alyssa Doom (Co-chair – Community Outreach Committee)
Alyssa is a senior associate with the Pew Charitable Trusts, where she works with state and local government leaders to advance the use of data and evidence in decision-making. Prior to joining Pew, Alyssa was a member of the Sunlight Foundation’s Open Cities team where she worked on the Bloomberg Philanthropies What Works Cities initiative, helping to advance open data policy and practice at the local level. Alyssa is an active member of the Arlington County Open Data Advisory Group, where she provides guidance and insight to the County’s open data leadership team. Alyssa also serves as a board member for the National Freedom of Information Coalition, which advocates for public access to government information.
Will is a Director at Strategy for Humanity LLC, where his work for clients around the world covers human rights, good governance, and freedom of expression (FOI) with a focus on hate speech. Among his past work roles, he led programs on media and conflict and Internet Freedom for Internews and headed the FOI project at the National Security Archive. Will has worked on FOI in countries ranging from Romania to South Africa. He has trained personnel on FOIA for the Department of Justice Department and World Bank, among others, and he 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.
Kevin is a former president (2014-2016) and treasurer (2012-2014) of the Coalition. He is VP Legal for the Digital Media Association. He was previously an attorney with the law firm of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C., where he focused on First Amendment, Freedom of Information Act, and intellectual property issues. His work in these areas primarily involves counseling of and advocacy for journalists. As a result he has participated in the drafting and passage of several major amendments to the federal Freedom of Information Act, as well as similar efforts to reform public records and open meetings laws in countries around the world. He is a member of the National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame (yes, that’s a real thing) and currently serves on the federal Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee.
Kevin joined the DCOGC board after realizing that he wasn’t active on those same transparency issues where it matters most: his own hometown. This was something he found particularly troubling given that he (like his parents) was born in the District of Columbia. Kevin traveled “the circuit” of local jurisdictions – going to high school in Maryland, college (at James Madison) in Virginia, and law school (at George Washington) back in D.C. He now lives in Ward 6, near Eastern Market which he loves because of its sense of community. He is also active in other local organizations, serving on the Board of the District of Columbia Public Access Television Corporation (DCTV) and having been a former Board member (and former President of) the D.C. United Foundation (the charitable arm of D.C. United).
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, McLaughlin worked at two 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.
Miranda is an award-winning, independent journalist who has written extensively about open government issues, most recently in her “State Secrets” series for Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting (https://www.revealnews.org/topic/state-secrets/). 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.
Alison Thaung (Co-chair – Community Outreach Committee)
Alison is a Data Scientist who has been living in the D.C. area for several years. As a D.C. resident and analytics professional she is interested in open government and especially open data. She strongly believes in the potential and benefit of bringing together technology, advanced analytics skills, and open data to increase transparency and civic engagement.
The Coalition was established in 2009 when the founding president, Tom Susman, convened several dozen community members and found enthusiasm for formalizing a wide variety of advocacy and public education efforts around open records, open meetings and government transparency generally in the District of Columbia. The Washington, D.C., office of the Boston-based law firm of Ropes & Gray provided pro bono help for incorporation and later 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.
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.
- 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 anyone situation. We do answer questions promptly, refer people to other resources, and generally help individuals 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.
- Doesn’t transparency hinder government, slowing down decisions and causing 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.
P.O. Box 73771
Washington, DC 20056