Today in OpenGov: The false choice between open data criticism and collaboration


TOP STORIES: Sunlight’s executive director, John Wonderlich, returned to the blog with this response to Tom Steinberg’s critiques of the open data movement.

“Advocates and activists often started on a path to request, scrape or sue for data because they saw an opportunity to use it to illuminate corruption, reveal shady corporate entities, track human rights abuses or defend speech rights,” he writes. “The desire to achieve greater of social justice, reduce inequality and drive social change fuel the spreadsheets, policy papers and visualizations that characterize the open data movement. The people strengthening systems using encryption, contributing to massive open source projects, experimenting with collaborative approaches to politics and designing new ways to analyze power are generally not satisfied by tepid incremental improvements, and we need not be too concerned that they will.” [Read the whole thing there.]

KEEP THE SUNSHINE IN! The Sunlight Foundation joined an effort led by Democracy 21 to oppose legislation by Rep. Peter Roskam, R- Ill., that would remove the non-public disclosure of donors requirement for 501(c) categorized nonprofit groups. The bill would eliminate the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to fully ensure that politically active dark money groups, such as a 501(c)(4), do not accept money from a foreign entity or foreign individual.

“This bill is a step backward for transparency and disclosure of politically active nonprofits, and would throw the IRS’s ability to enforce the law into serious doubt,” said Wonderlich. “The IRS is an important line of defense against a potential foreign company, foreign individual or foreign government donating to a nonprofit group that can then pour unlimited, undisclosed money into our elections. Let’s keep it that way.” [Read the letter here.] WHO’S ATTACKING THE CFPB? A dark money group called “Protect America’s Consumers” is running ads against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but no one knows who is behind it. We delve into what we do know about the group here. [Sunlight]

In our companion piece, Sunlight Staff Writer Libby Watson tried to track down the dark money behind the ads. She spent hours searching, with little to show for it. [Sunlight]


  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Email Privacy Act (H.R.699) by a vote of 419-0. Now the Senate will deliberate whether Uncle Sam needs to get a warrant to before accessing email or data hosted in the cloud. [Center for Democracy and Technology]
  • The office of the federal FOIA ombudsman posted a deep dive into the use of “Still Interested” letters on its blog. Part 1 of its report is now online. [OGIS]
  • USAID has posted a Grand Challenge for combating the Zika virus. $30 million dollars is allocated for the effort. [USAID]
  • Classified pages from the 9/11 commission’s report may be released this summer. [New York Times]
  • A recently declassified report by the CIA’s Inspector General found that the agency illegally hired independent contractors. [Vice]
  • The Obama administration is facing harsh criticism over transparency as FOIA reform is considered in Congress. [Inside Sources]
  • The data exhaust our actions leave behind will add new wrinkles to running for elected office in the future. [NextGov]


State and Local



  • A new iPhone app in California helps you register to vote by scanning the barcode on a driver’s license. []
  • The California Supreme Court is going to livestream oral arguments. We hope U.S. Chief Justice Roberts is watching. []
  • New legislation in the Ohio Senate seeks to speed up public records requests and reduce feeds, adding a mediation process. []





  • Hera Hussain wrote in from OpenCorporates to announce the launch of, which has more than a million company records from gazette notices in the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Luxemboug and the Cayman Islands! “We’ve scraped this data, linked it to the data on OpenCorporates and made it open data,” she explained, over email.
  • The distributed approach to forming policy pursued by the new government of Canada is drawing attention. [Policy Options]
  • Transparency and data disclosure is a good place for open government and climate action to meet. [OGP]
  • Get your daily dash of FOMO by searching #TicTec if you weren’t in Barcelona to discuss civic tech today.

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