Today in OpenGov: Congress misses opportunity to open CRS reports to the public. Again.


CLOSED CRS: Seven years ago, Sunlight’s founding executive director, Ellen Miller, wrote that opening up Congressional Research Service reports “is an easy transparency reform that boggles the mind as to why it has not yet been done.” Sadly, that remains true today: As Demand Progress’ Daniel Schuman recounts, U.S. House Appropriators did not back public access to Congressional Research Reports yesterday.

As Matt Fuller observed, “At a time when highly informed voters might seem like a good thing, the Appropriations Committee voted down, 18-32, an amendment from Reps. Mike Quigely (D-Ill.) and Scott Rigell (R-Va.) that would have made it easier for the public to access Congressional Research Service reports.” [Huffington Post]

The Sunlight Foundation has called for public access to publicly funded research for years. We’re not going to stop.


  • Subsidy Tracker, GoodJobsFirst’s national database of taxpayer-funded subsidy awards from 740 federal state and local programs to businesses, now has 500,000 entries valued of more than $250 billion.”Our ability to grow Subsidy Tracker reflects the improvement in government transparency over the past decade,” said Philip Mattera, Research Director of Good Jobs First and chief architect of the database, in a statement. “We and many other accountability groups have successfully urged governments to disclose company-specific economic development awards, including our own 50-state report card studies starting in 2007.” For more on this, read Bill Allison’s post on how this effort reveals government’s favorite corporations.
  • In a new report, the World Privacy Forum looks at the White House’s Precision Medicine Initiative and privacy, wondering what legal protections will apply. Summary: “The HIPAA health privacy rule and its protections for individuals will not apply to PMI research activities. The key privacy concerns raised by the PMI are the lack of applicable law to govern its collection and use of individuals’ health data, the potential waiver of the patient-physician legal privilege that can shield data from disclosure through litigation, and the possibility of law enforcement access to patient records held in the PMI.” [WPF]
  • Three of the top four officials at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are now working in the financial services industry, suggesting that the new watchdog has the same revolving doors that long-established regulators have. [Daily Caller]
  • Don’t submit confidential information to the National Institutes of Health, suggested the agency’s grants compliance director: it could be made public via FOIA. [BNA]
  • President Obama responded to an online petition asking the Department of Labor to move quickly on implementing a new overtime rule.
  • Sunlight’s Drew Doggett looked at the industries that fueled the presidential campaigns of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Ohio Governor John Kasich. [Political Party Time]
  • “Empower Mint?” Ben & Jerry’s is calling attention to dark money in politics with a new flavor of ice cream. Dark money is not one sweet whirled. [FastCoExist]
  • Speaking of campaign finance, “Full Frontal with Samanta Bee recently” looked at the “victims of Super PACs.” The episode is embedded below.


State and Local



Data visualization of Independence, Missouri

Data visualization of Independence, Missouri

  • Guest author Brent Schondelmeyer blogged about how he mapped his community in 15 minutes using open data. “We can spend an inordinate amount of time speculating or imaging our communities rather than looking closely at the readily available data,” he wrote. “If given access to real data, we should use it. What we think may be less important than what we can know.” [Sunlight]
  • “Making an official code available in bulk enables volunteers in the community to make a better web,” wrote Carl Malamud, in his official declaration in Georgia. []
  • Former city data scientist Stacey Mosley launched FixList, an “online service that lets users search the city’s open data to narrow down over 600,000 real estate locations according to 26 different criteria and find redevelopment potential across Philadelphia neighborhoods.” []
  • Civic hacker Mark Headd compared open data on traffic violations and traffic ticket convictions in New York State to see which different parts of the Empire State might be letting speeders plead down, avoiding points and paying fines into local coffers. []
  • Here’s 3 highlights of the recent Gigabit City Summit in Kansas City from Jason Shueh, focuses on “do’s and don’ts” in civic tech. [Govtech]
  • In Oklahoma, a bill to create a centralized open records portal has stalled due to costs and IT concerns. Sounds familiar. [Statescoop]
  • Mobile apps are helping taxpayers to report waste, fraud and abuse. [Stateline]
  • Sunlight board member Dan X. O’Neil wrote about sustainable community technology organizing, reflecting on what the right model for “civic hacking” groups could or should be. His view?

    “Smart Chicago has essentially stopped supporting civic tech organizing infrastructure. We find more value in supporting community technology through programs like Connect Chicago, Youth-Led Tech, Smart Health Centers, and Documenters.

    When it comes to convening people around technology for good, we tend to focus on adding resident voices to Internet of Things projects, recording meetings about police accountability in neighborhoods beyond downtown, and meeting in small groups with people from all over the county.”





  • The Center for Open Data Enterprise and the Open Data for Development Network (OD4D) published its first report on the Open Data Impact Map. The report analyzed 1534 examples of organizations using open data from 87 countries. “Our analysis of the Impact Map data has found the most common types of data used across sectors and regions are government operations (e.g. budgets, spending, elections, procurement data), geospatial (e.g. GPS data, satellite imagery), and demographic and social (e.g. census data),” wrote Audrey Ariss and Laura Manley. [Huffington Post]
  • Todd Mackay took a look at the state of compliance with access to information laws in Canada. [National Post]
  • A lack of trust in government in countries across Africa could be increasing the risk of online crime. [QZ]
  • Writing for the Omidyar Network — which has funded Sunlight in the past, Martin Tisne wrote about last week’s anti-corruption summit in the United Kingdom. He’s hopeful that public registers of beneficial ownership and open contracting standards will become standard practice.

    “Tectonic plates are moving and the beginning of a new global norm is clearly forming. It will simply no longer be possible to hide behind the veil of anonymity that companies can provide for their real owners. It will — rightly — seem utterly strange in a few years from now that anyone could ever have registered a company without declaring their identity, much in the same way as it seems unbelievable that as recently as the 1990s bribes could be deducted as a business expense in many countries in the world including the UK.” [Medium]




  • The Federal Open Government Working Group is meeting at the National Archives next Tuesday at 1 PM ET. Civil society is welcome to sit in.

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