Today in OpenGov: More political ad disclosure is coming soon!


WHO BOUGHT THAT AD? Melissa Yeager expertly explains and reports on good news on political ad disclosure: “Beginning, June 24, 2016, you will be able to get more information about political ads running on cable, radio and satellite stations across the United States. As we first wrote after the January decision, this is a huge victory for transparency and, furthermore, for convenience. Our own Libby Watson learned that firsthand when she tried to inspect public files in person to track down who was behind the group “Protect America’s Consumers” which was running ads opposed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. After June 24, those disclosures will be available online, and we’re exploring options for making this new data available through our Political Ad Sleuth tool.”

MORE DATA, PLEASE: The Federal Communications Commission’s release of consumer complaint data is a step in the right direction, but it falls far short of the transparency and accountability full disclosure would bring. What the FCC is doing here isn’t quite openwashing, but it’s something well short of full transparency, too. After all, full consumer complaints filed to the FCC are already available to anyone who files a Freedom of Information Act request for them. The FCC shouldn’t need to be nudged or sued to release these records to the public. By publishing the subjects of complaints and pairing it with data on the status of resolution for consumers — something FCC commissioners have indicated they have interest in — the FCC could provide a much more valuable consumer resource.

“TAX RETURN TRUMP”: A national poll found that 59% of the public supports disclosure of tax returns by presidential candidates. We think there is a clear public interest in disclosure of tax returns by presidents and presidential candidates, and we called on Congress to mandate their disclosure.


  • The Trump campaign  is reportedly in talks with former Utah governor Mike Leavitt about planning for governing, should the real estate mogul win in November. “The Romney camp’s open warfare with Trump has yielded to the higher goals of good government, both sides say, as the real-estate mogul and Democratic front runner Hillary Clinton take advantage of new laws designed to ease the takeover of power in the White House and federal agencies.” [Washington Post]
  • The FBI is proposing to exempt its “Next Generation Identification (NGI) System” from certain provisions of the Privacy Act. The public can comment on the proposed rulemaking on [TechDirt]
  • Speaking of regulations, professor Cary Coglianese recently wrote about “robotic regulatory machines.” (Mind the invisible barbed wire, folks.] [Regblog]

State and Local

  • The Legislative Open Records Act and related bills cleared the Michigan House Oversight and Ethics Committee, setting up a vote in the full legislature this year that would make the governor and legislature subject to state public records laws. [Lansing State Journal]
  • Maryland has become the latest state to limit controversial civil forfeiture laws, even as law enforcement pushes back:

    The measure signed in Annapolis was one of some 50 bills floated in at least 22 states this year proposing to limit civil asset forfeiture. Nine states passed some form of reform laws, while similar measures failed in another six, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of the legislation. Seven states still have 11 bills pending.

    Widespread civil forfeiture emerged from the drug war of the 1980s, and has been the source of controversy since. The back and forth is part of a fresh round of battles being waged in statehouses nationwide amid a federal stalemate on possible changes — though a new congressional bill was introduced Thursday. [Public Integrity]

  • The AP and the Legal Intelligencer are asking a judge to unseal public filings in the pending criminal case against former Penn State administrators. [AP]
  • Katherine Hillenbrand shared some reflection on last month’s What Works Cities Summit and introduced a new What Works Cities vertical on the Harvard Ash Center’s website, which includes this interesting post on innovating with behavioral science. We couldn’t help but notice a transparency principle was missing for public sector use of behavioral science, with public disclosure of how, why and where it’s being applied.  [Data Smart Cities]
  • Mark Headd reflected on what he’s learned about the importance of civic tech organizing in Philadelphia and Baltimore. [Civicist]
  • Yesterday, New York City launched, touting it as an example of the city’s digital playbook in action and introducing “Alpha Labs.” The stripped down city .gov features three of the services New Yorkers search for most at “Find a Job,” “Pay a Parking Ticket,” and “Get an ID.” [Medium]
  • What you might not realize about the alpha launch is its roots in New York’s civic hacking community — that is, unless you read Civicist or covered the open government hackathon to redesign at Govfresh back in 2011. [BetaNYC]
  • The Department of Better Technology has launched a new podcast. In the first episode, CEO Joshua Goldstein talked with Justin Erlich, the data and technology advisor to California Attorney General Kamala Harris. []
  • Speaking of California, Secretary of State Alex Padilla says that the state received almost 200,000 completed transactions on the its online voter registration website on May 16 and May 17 after Californians were reminded to register on Facebook. The Facebook reminder, shown below, linked users to, which then redirected people to Now that’s a great use of social media. fbreminder


  • The Italian Council of Ministers approved a Transparency Decree providing access for information. [FreedomInfo]
  • Another way to put this news is that Italy just approved its first Freedom of Information Act! That’s great news for #FOIAFriday. [FOIA4Italy]
  • The United Kingdom is about to take its federated identity platform for government services out of beta. The USA? Not so much. [Federal Computer Week]
  • Mexico launched a national transparency platform to promote access to information. Advox:

    “The platform portal allows anyone with Internet access to obtain government information already available, or request data that is not yet available. The National Transparency Platform launched on May 6, 2016, by the National Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data Institute, which is charged with guaranteeing the fundamental right of access to public information in Mexico. This portal was created as a result of controversial reforms of the country’s constitutional law on transparency (see past reports on Global Voices Advox), which now includes new legal obligations for political parties and unions to ensure the transparency of their information, among many other issues.” [Global Voices]

  • The first World Humanitarian Summit will take place in Instanbul on Monday, May 23rd. In advance of the event, Stefaan Verhulst wrote about a new paper, “Building Data Responsibility into Humanitarian Action,” which “seeks to identify the potential benefits and risks of using data in the humanitarian context, and begins to outline an initial framework for the responsible use of data in humanitarian settings.” [Govlab]
  • Verhulst also shared a new paper on challenges in open government data initiatives. [Govlab]
  • City planners in dozens of municipalities are using cycling data from the Strava tracking app in their work. [Guardian]
  • Crowdsourcing corruption? “The Mera Swasthya Meri Aawaz (MSMA) project is the first of its kind in India to track illicit maternal fees demanded in government hospitals located in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.”[DW]
  • The Chinese government apparently fakes about 448 million social media comments annually. New research by Gary King, Jennifer Pan and Margaret Roberts tell us more about how and why: praising the government and distracting the public when there’s a risk of popular upheaval through collective action. [Washington Post]

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