Madison Award.

Madison Award

Now Accepting Nominations until May 31, 2019!

The Washington Coalition for Open Government is currently seeking nominations for the 2019 James Madison Award. This award is one of the highest honors WCOG bestows to honor transparency advocates. Nomination deadline is May 31, 2019.

This award is given to an individual or organization whose long term commitment to the cause of open government has been demonstrated through exemplary words or deeds. Individual self-nominations will not be accepted, although individuals may nominate their organizations.

The award will be presented on Friday, September 20, at the annual Madison Andersen Awards Breakfast at the Washington Athletic Club. Details for that event will be available soon.

Past Recipients

+2018 - The People of Washington State

The People of Washington State

Gordon Padget, Charles Lie and Pam Wascher with Toby Nixon.

As recognition of the estimated 20,000 calls and emails urging Gov. Inslee to veto bill SB 6617, WCOG broke from its past practice of selecting an individual to honor with the 2018 James Madison Award, and recognized the people of Washington for their advocacy of transparency.

+ 2017 - Kris Passey

Catherine Passey (center) accepting the 2017 James Madison Award on behalf of the late Kris Passey with WCOG president Toby Nixon (right) and former WCOG president Scott Wilson (left). Photo by Marcus R. Donner.
Kris Passey pictured below.

+2016 - Witherspoon Kelley

Joel Hazel (right) accepting the 2016 James Madison Award on behalf of Witherspoon Kelley with WCOG president Toby Nixon (left).

+2015 - The News Tribune

David Zeeck, President and Publisher of The News Tribune (left) accepting 2015 James Madison Award on behalf of The News Tribune, with WCOG President Toby Nixon (middle) and Karen Peterson, Editor of The News Tribune.
Photo by Marcus R. Donner © 2015

+2014 - Kenneth Bunting

Juli Bunting presentation 2

Juli Bunting (middle) accepting 2014 James Madison Award on behalf of the late Ken Bunting, with WCOG President Toby Nixon (right) and Brian Sonntag, Former WA State Auditor (left).

+2013 - Brian Sonntag


Brian Sonntag retired this year, ending 40 years of public service, including 20 years as Washington State’s auditor. In announcing his decision not to seek re-election, Sonntag cited advocating for greater citizen access to government as one of his most important achievements. His record as a champion for open government is unmatched in the state.

In 2013 Sonntag was inducted into Heroes of the 50 States: The State Open Government Hall of Fame.

The award honors individuals “whose lifetime commitment to citizen access, open government and freedom of information has left a significant legacy at the state and local level.” It is a joint venture of the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

Brian Sonntag’s legacy is clear.

+2012 - Davis Wright Tremaine Law Firm

Davis Wright Tremaine’s contribution to open government in Washington state is profound. Its attorneys have litigated many of the legal precedents that we rely on today to hold courts and public agencies accountable. DWT attorneys have also been active on the legislative front, drafting statutes that protect the right to speak out on issues of public importance (the “anti-SLAPP” law) and a reporter “shield law” that enhances the news media’s ability to report public information.DWT has been an early and consistent supporter of WCOG. The firm helped incorporate WCOG when it was formed in 2002 and has provided ongoing advice and consistent financial support since then. DWT lawyers have spoken at WCOG town meetings and Continuing Legal Education seminars. Its attorneys have served on the Coalition’s legal committee and board of directors, including as president.

“Davis Wright Tremaine has, for many decades, been a leader in the cause of open government in Washington and the work of the Coalition,” said Toby Nixon, president of the Coalition. “It’s hard to imagine what the condition of our open government statutes and case law would be without DWT’s consistent, exemplary, hard work on behalf of their clients and the people of Washington as a whole.”

+2012 - Bennett Feigenbaum

feigenbaum-bennettBennett Feigenbaum is President and Chief Administrative Officer of Executive Mediator Services.Feigenbaum began his legal career as clerk to the Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court and then was with a prominent Seattle law firm. From 1964 to 1973 he was the Seattle-based assistant general counsel to Pacific Northwest Bell, the area’s telephone company.

Feigenbaum and his associates founded the Coalition for Open Government in 1971. He chaired the Coalition from 1971 to 1973. Feigenbaum left Seattle in 1973 to head a legal department at the AT&T headquarters in New York City, where he worked for over 20 years. Since 1991 He has owned and managed a company advising businesses and government agencies on controlling their legal expenses.He currently serves on the Board of the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators, and has met its stringent requirements to be designated an Accredited Professional Mediator. He is a New Jersey Court-Approved Mediator, a National Association of Securities Dealers trained Arbitration Chairperson, and a member of the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association.Feigenbaum earned a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Maryland, and his law degree from the Georgetown Law Center. He is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia and the States of Washington (Inactive) and New Jersey and New York.

+2012 - Michael Hildt

hildt-michaelBorn in Washington, D. C. in 1942 and raised in Colorado, Michael Hildt began his career in the banking industry. In 1971, he gave up a management position at SeaFirst Bank to become director of the Coalition for Open Government. Pushing for a change in the state law requiring financial disclosure of lobbying activities and campaign finance, the group’s Initiative 276 passed in 1972, resulting in the state’s public-disclosure law.Subsequently, Hildt worked as head of City Council’s policy staff until he ran and was elected to Seattle City Council in 1977 at the age of 35. He won by a margin of 20,000 votes. During the eight-year period Hildt served on City Council, he is perhaps best-known for his work with the Pike Place Market. Hildt forged an agreement between Pike Place Market farmers and artisans known as the Hildt Agreement. Hildt was also active in the City’s conservation efforts in the early 1980s and housing issues. He worked to allow apartments attached to single-family homes, or mother-in-law apartments, in order to increase the supply of lower cost housing.

Hildt served two terms on Council, 1978-1986, before choosing not to run for reelection. He chaired the Urban Development and Housing Committee (1978-1981), the Energy Committee (1982-1985), and two ad hoc committees, Shorelines (1979) and Campaign Financing (1984-1985). He was a member of several other committees including: Parks and Community Services (1978-1979), Water and Waste Management (1980-1981), Environmental Management (1984-1985), and Finance (1982-1985).After leaving City Council, Hildt and his wife, Karen Gates Hildt, moved to the Olympic Peninsula in 1986. He became the first City Administrator for Port Townsend in 1995. In 1999, he earned his master’s degree in business from the University of Washington.

Hildt died of cancer in December 2001 at the age of 59.

+2012 - Slade Gorton

gorton_sladeMr. Gorton joined K&L Gates as of counsel after spending 18 years representing Washington State in the United States Senate.  Mr. Gorton’s years in the Senate saw him appointed to powerful committee posts including Appropriations; Budget; Commerce, Science and Transportation; and Energy and Natural Resources.  Mr. Gorton served as the chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee (1995-2001), the Commerce Subcommittees on Consumer Affairs (1995-99), and Aviation (1999-2000).  He was a member of the Republican leadership as counsel to the majority leader (1996-2000).Mr. Gorton began his political career in 1958 as a Washington state representative; he went on to serve as state House majority leader.  In 1968, Mr. Gorton was elected attorney general of Washington state where he argued 14 cases before the United States Supreme Court.  In June 1980, Mr. Gorton received the Wyman Award, the highest honor accorded by the National Association of Attorneys General.Mr. Gorton also served on the president’s Consumer Advisory Council (1975-77) and on the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission from 1969-1981.  He was chairman of the Washington State Law & Justice Commission (1969-76), and served as an instructor in constitutional law to public administration graduate students at the University of Puget Sound (1977).

+2011- Sam Reed

samreed_webSince taking office in 2000, Sam Reed has led the State of Washington into the 21st Century and secured its legacy. In 2004, he launched the nation’s first state government digital archives to rescue disappearing electronic history. Reed fought and won the battle to save the Washington State Library, the State’s oldest cultural institution. The State Library is now a division of his office. Throughout Reed’s past two terms in office, the Secretary has worked diligently to make Washington a more business-friendly state by allowing corporations to file electronically. Thanks to Reed’s efforts, new laws are in place to strengthen transparency, accountability, and trust in charitable organizations.

Prior to his service as Secretary of State, Reed was elected Thurston County Auditor five times and served as the Assistant Secretary of State under Lud Kramer and Bruce Chapman. Governor Dan Evans appointed Reed Director of the Urban Affairs Commission and the Constitutional Reform Commission. Secretary Reed is past President of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS). Reed also served as an advisor to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission from 2005 to 2007. Secretary Reed is currently a member of the Olympia Kiwanis Club and sits on the Washington State Historical Society Board of Trustees, TVW’s Board of Directors, the YMCA Youth and Government Board, and the State Capitol Committee.

Secretary Reed attended Washington State University where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies and Master’s Degree in Political Science. Reed and his wife Margie make their home in Olympia. They have two adult children, David and Kristen, and two grandchildren.

+2010 - Frank Blethen


Frank Blethen, a Seattle native, is publisher of The Seattle Times/, the second largest newspaper/website on the West Coast. Known for its strong local coverage and its aggressive investigative reporting, The Seattle Times has won eight Pulitzer Prizes, including the 2010 Pulitzer Price for Breaking News Reporting. Currently in its 113th year of Blethen family stewardship, The Times is one of America’s last independent and locally owned newspapers.

Frank is one of nine members of the family’s fourth and fifth generations active in The Seattle Times’ management and governance. He is a strong advocate for independent journalism, family-owned businesses, and a long-time active participant in the national grass-roots movement opposing the consolidation of newspaper and media ownership.

The Blethen family and The Seattle Times are known as advocates for diversity, education and community service. The family also owns the Yakima Herald-Republic, the Walla Walla Union–Bulletin and several Seattle area weeklies, including the Issaquah Press.

+2009 - Stan Marshburn

stanmarshburnStan Marshburn has worked for Washington State public policy for 33 years. After graduating from The Evergreen State College he began his career as a budget analyst in 1976. A progression of fiscal and policy jobs in both the executive and legislative branches of state government culminated in his appointment as Policy Director for Governor Booth Gardner in 1988. In 1992 Stan teamed with Denny Heck to create TVW, Washington State’s pioneering public affairs network. After successfully launching TVW, Stan returned to employment with state government, recently completing a ten year stint as Chief Financial Officer of the Department of Social and Health Services. He is currently the Deputy Director of the Office of Financial Management.

+2009 - Denny Heck

dennyheckDenny Heck retired as president and founder of TVW in 2003 after leading the organization for 10 years. For five years, Denny produced and hosted an award-winning weekly public affairs discussion program, Inside Olympia. While at TVW, Denny wrote and directed a documentary about the State Supreme Court, entitled Supreme Justice, which was awarded an Emmy™.

Denny graduated from The Evergreen State College and attended graduate school at Portland State University. In 1976, at the age of 24, he was elected to the first of five terms to the State House of Representatives where he rose to the position of Majority Leader. While in the legislature, Denny authored the state’s historic Basic Education Act. He later served as Chief of Staff to Governor Booth Gardner (1989-1993). Denny recently served as one of Governor Gregoire’s four citizen commissioners to Washington Learns, her 18-month intensive study committee charged with making recommendations to restructure Washington State’s education system.

+2008 - Jolene Unsoeld

joleneJolene Unsoeld is a former member of the Washington State Legislature and United States House of Representatives. As an independent lobbyist in Olympia from 1971 to 1984 and then as a state legislator from 1985 to 1988, Unsoeld was Washington state’s major advocate for open government where she protected and strengthened the Public Records Act, the Open Public Meetings Act, and the Public Disclosure Commission and the laws that it enforces. Unsoeld collected petition signatures in 1972 to put Initiative 276, the Open Government Act (now often referred to as the Public Disclosure Act) on the ballot, and was part of the campaign that enacted the initiative that year through overwhelming voter support. More recently, Jolene served as a Member of Congress from 1989 to 1995 and worked there on behalf of the federal Freedom of Information Act and campaign spending reform.

+2007 - Paul Wright

wrightPaul Wright is the editor and co-founder of Prison Legal News, the longest publishing independent prisoner rights magazine in US history. He is the co-author of The Celling of America: An Inside Look at the US Prison Industry (Common Courage, 1998), Prison Nation: The Warehousing of America’s Poor (Routledge, 2003), and the forthcoming Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Imprisonment (New Press, 2008). His articles have appeared in a variety of publications. He is also the National Lawyers Guild Jailhouse Lawyer national co-vice president. A former prisoner, Paul was imprisoned for 17 years in Washington State until his release from prison in 2003. During and since his incarceration, he has successfully litigated a wide variety of censorship and public records issues against prison systems around the country both pro se, as a plaintiff, and on behalf of Prison Legal News. He is on the advisory board of Stop Prison Rape. Paul is a former Military Policeman and a graduate of the University of Maryland with a degree in Soviet history. Paul founded PLN in 1990 while imprisoned.

+2006 - Rowland Thompson

rowlandthompson_webSince Rowland Thompson grew up working at the family owned weekly newspapers he learned at an early age an understanding of fitting the story to the news hole, spelling the names correctly and getting the paper to bed on time. Rowland attended Whitman college and after graduation he returned to the family newspapers for a few years before being offered a position with Washington State House and then the Senate working for the Democratic Caucuses. In 1990 he assumed his present position as Executive Director of Allied Daily Newspapers with the retirement of his predecessor, Paul Conrad. Rowland has been appointed to numerous boards and commissions in government and the judiciary as well as those of a professional and charitable nature.

+2005 - James Andersen

james_andersen_2005James A. Andersen has had a long and distinguished career as an attorney in both private practice and the Washington State judiciary. After serving in World War II and completing his Bachelor of Arts and Law Degrees from the University of Washington, Justice Andersen began his legal career as a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for King County, Washington State, in 1953. He later went into private practice and became a partner with the firm of Clinton, Andersen, Fleck and Glein in Seattle. While in private practice Justice Andersen served as a citizen legislator in the Washington House of Representatives from 1959 to 1967 and in the Washington State Senate from 1967-72. Justice Andersen started his career in the judiciary in 1975 when he joined the Washington State Court of Appeals in Seattle where he served until 1984. He became a Justice on the Washington State Supreme Court in Olympia in 1984 and served as Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court from 1992 until his retirement in 1995. As Chief Justice, Justice Andersen was host judge of the National Conference of Chief Justices and gave the first ever State of the Judiciary Address to a joint session of the Washington State Legislature. After retiring from the Washington State Supreme Court in 1995 he served as Special Assistant Attorney General and received the University of Washington School of Law Distinguished Alumnus award. In addition to being a founding member of the Board of Directors for the Washington Coalition for Open Government, he presently chairs the state’s Legislative Ethics Board.