California First Amendment Coalition

The California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) is a nonprofit public interest organization committed to freedom of speech, more open and accountable government, and public participation in civic affairs. Founded in 1988, CFAC's activities include "test case" litigation, free legal consultations on first amendment issues, educational programs, legislative oversight of bills in California affecting access to government and free speech, and public advocacy.

CFAC co-authored and sponsored Proposition 59 [] , the Sunshine Amendment to the California state constitution, enacted by voters in 2004. CFAC since then has enforced Prop. 59, suing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to force him to make public his and his staff’s calendars of appointments, pressuring state agencies to be more transparent in their decision-making, and filing lawsuits to strengthen existing protections and establish new rights of access.

Recent suits have involved public access to government databases; greater disclosure by CalPERS the state pension system, of its investments in hedge funds, private equity deals and other alternative investments;Cite news|url=|title=Calpers Tells What It Paid High-Risk Investment Funds|accessdate=2008-01-10|publisher=The New York Times|date=2004-12-08|author=Mary Williams Walsh] extending government access requirements to the California court system; and curbing agency use of the most abused FOI exemptions.

CFAC's “Legal Hotline” [] provides legal information and assistance to journalists, bloggers, ethnic media, and ordinary citizens. CFAC's web site is a key resource for statutes, cases, “FAQs,” news and analysis on First Amendment and freedom of information issues in California. Many portions are available in Spanish and Mandarin for use by ethnic media.

CFAC conducts annual conferences with its partners the USC Annenberg School of Communication and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Recent speakers have included Jeffrey Toobin, Stuart Taylor, Arianna Huffington, Daniel Ellsberg, NSA General Counsel Robert Deitz, former NY Times reporter Judith Miller, First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, Commentary Magazine editor Gabriel Schoenfeld, Internet journalism pioneer Dan Gillmor, and leading media lawyers from around the country. CFAC has also published “The Right to Know: A Guide to Public Access and Media Law,” (2007), a comprehensive handbook on FOI, First Amendment and news-gathering law.

CFAC's members are news organizations, law firms, libraries, civic organizations, academics, freelance journalists, bloggers, community activists, and ordinary citizens. Members and supporters are kept abreast of legal issues through CFAC’s newsletter—a combination of original commentaries and summaries of news and legal developments—distributed to 4,000 people every two weeks. CFAC’s views reach a larger audience through republication of its commentaries in newspapers across the state, as well as television and radio appearances by its executive director.

CFAC is nonpartisan and politically nonideological. Membership spans the political spectrum, from liberals who worry about excessive government secrecy to conservatives who see big government as a threat to individual liberties. All support freedom from censorship, whether from the left or the right, and government transparency.

In 2006 and 2007, CFAC's activities were supported by grants from the McCormick-Tribune Foundation and the John S. and James I. Knight Foundation. CFAC and Peter Scheer, its executive director, also were acknowledged both regionally and nationally through receipt of the Eugene S. Pulliam Award [] and the James Madison Freedom of Information Award in 2006. []

CFAC’s Board of Directors consists of representatives of “old” media (e.g., Jerry Ceppos, former VP/News, Knight Ridder; Ginger Moorhouse, CEO, Bakersfield Californian), “new” media (e.g., Nicole Wong, Associate General Counsel, Google; Dan Gillmor, founder and Director of Center for Citizen Media; Neil Budde, Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo! News), as well as academics, representatives of public interest organizations, and lmedia and First Amendment lawyers.


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