OK, GOOGLE: If you search Google for “how to register to vote,” U.S. users will now instantly receive guidelines, requirements and information about how to register, including a link to do so online if states offer it. Too bad 19 states don’t have online voter registration yet. [TechCrunch]
OPAQUE: As the Republican National Convention kicks off in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention prepares to open in Philadelphia next week, don’t bother looking for insight into the corporate contributions that are funding the events. The Federal Election Commission doesn’t require the host committees to disclosure the donors until 60 days after the last day of the convention. “Transparency is not great,” Sunlight’s Richard Skinner told TIME. “I’d prefer that disclosure came earlier so people can hold their parties accountable. We need to know that people are obeying the law, and who’s been able to gain access through this process.” [TIME]
In the video embedded below, Sunlight’s Josh Stewart talks to Circa News about secret convention donor lists.
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— Library of Congress (@librarycongress) July 18, 2016
- As you may recall, after the Guardian reported that the American Egg Board was trying to crush Hampton Creek in 2015, the country’s largest food processors teamed up and lobbied Congress for an exemption from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for so-called “checkoff groups” that market agricultural commodities. Sunlight joined our allies on Capitol Hill to oppose it.
- “Federal election observers can only be sent to five states in this year’s presidential election.” [Reuters]
- President Barack Obama proposed that Senators commit to giving every nominee to the Supreme Court “a hearing and a vote within an established time frame.” [WSJ]
- The addition of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to the Republican presidential ticket isn’t likely to add a commitment to transparency. Indiana and its chief executive have received low grades for open government from the Center for Public Integrity. [Rolling Stone]
- Speaking of transparency, one way the FBI can demonstrate its commitment to transparency is moving from a mainframe to modern information technology. FOIA researcher Ryan Shapiro is suing the Department of Justice, holding that the agency is intentionally conducting inadequate searches of its records using outdated technology. [Guardian]
- Speaking of FOIA and the FBI, the agency will begin giving the State Department the email its forensic investigators found on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server, starting this Friday. [Washington Examiner]
- How many police officers die in the United States every year as a result of crime? Data show that the average number has dropped from over the past three decades, from a high in 1980. [BBC]
- The DATA Coalition published a new report on the “vision and value” of the DATA Act. [Download]
State and Local
- Oregon’s public records laws enable agencies to obfuscate, delay or create barriers with huge fees. [The Oregonian]
- Speaking of public records laws, MuckRock has launched a new project to document the use of public records exemptions in every U.S. state. [CJR]
- “Taxpayer-funded campaign staff can now knock at Kansans’ doors.” [Kansas.com]
- Code for America has posted an open letter to its brigades, the thousands of volunteers in 80 cities who have pitched in over the past 4 years to collaborate and contribute. The letter highlights both accomplishments and challenges for the brigades and their parent organization. The news: “For the rest of 2016, we’re revamping the structure and strategy of our Brigade network to align around a shared identity, vision and focus, and we are engaging our community throughout the process.” The plan: Code for America will develop a shared governance model, increase knowledge sharing, develop a sustainable funding model and develop partnerships. [Medium]
- And no, civic technology is not dead. [Center for Government Excellence]
- The environmental conditions in Rio de Janeiro are a known risk to athletes and spectators of the Summer Olympics alike, and yet the Games are set to go on. Something doesn’t smell right, and it’s not just the water. According to an Oxford Business School, each Olympics over the last decade has cost an average of $8.9 billion over the past decade, with an average cost overrun of 156%. The way that cities report and oversee infrastructure spending for the Games needs to be reformed — and the Recovery Act provides a good model. It might be fiscally responsible to re-use existing venues and stop running up the debt of cities, but that’s another issue. [Washington Post]
- Many questions remain about the failed coup in Turkey over the weekend, but there is one point of clarity: people were able to use online tools to route around closures of official state media. The takeaway: social media and online video can enable publics to create and access shared common knowledge. [Medium]
- Sociologist Zeynep Tufekci was in Turkey this weekend and wrote about what she saw and experienced. [New York Times]
Three years later, during an actual coup attempt, I scanned the Twitter feeds of many of the dissidents who took part in the protests and found strong opposition to military rule. Similarly, the most reliable journalists I found to follow online on Friday night were those who had recently been fired or laid off for refusing to turn into government mouthpieces. That I could count on them to report the truth, rather than just be obedient to the powerful, helped me and millions of others in Turkey who have learned to seek news on social media rather than on the country’s obsequious news outlets understand what was happening.
- The inaugural meeting of the new Chief FOIA Officer’s Council is on July 22 at the White House, this Friday. Email DOJ.OIP.FOIA@usdoj.gov with the subject line “CFO Council Meeting – Public” by the close of business on July 18, 2016 to request a seat. The event will be livestreamed. [OIP]
- The next Freedom of Information Act Advisory Committee meeting will take place the day before, on July 21 at the National Archives. It will also be livestreamed. [Register]
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