Today in OpenGov: Making agency open government plans open, data points, influencing Congress


OPEN UP: The U.S. Department of State published a draft of its next plan for open government for public review. That’s good news, but the way they did it isn’t. While most online platforms require registration for use in 2016, the public should not have to provide a federal agency with additional personal information in order to provide feedback on an open government initiative. [READ THE PLAN]

At minimum, we strongly recommend that all agencies post their open government plan online as a web page and take public comment on it through print, phone, email and social media channels without licensing, privacy or copyright constraints. Agencies should also consider publishing a draft on MADISON and Genius to offer the public more opportunities to directly annotate sections. We’ve asked the State Department to expand its public engagement efforts in this direction. [READ MORE]

PODCAST: Your faithful correspondent talked with Eric Reese about “how governments and communities can effectively and productively focus on transparency” for the Johns Hopkins Center for Government Excellence’s podcast. You can listen to the episode on “shining a light on data” online or download it to your mobile device at your leisure.

REMINDER: Sunlight is investigating political “dark money” in states this cycle — but we need you to tell us what you’re seeing and reading. [HELP US]


  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders won’t file a final presidential campaign personal financial disclosure. [Public Integrity]
  • WIRED made its first presidential endorsement in the publication’s history. [WIRED]
  • Michael Isikoff reports that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was a “go-between” in a secret Ukraine lobbying campaign. [Yahoo News]


  • The Department of Defense’s Office of the Inspector General published a report on the Pentagon’s Freedom of Information Act program. Its conclusion? They didn’t find any instances of noncareer officials “unduly influencing the FOIA response process,” which is what the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs asked about last November. Yet, the OIG did find that the Pentagon’s FOIA policies are outdated. Specifically, the DoD hadn’t updated the agency’s FOIA policies to comply with President George W. Bush’s 2005 (!) executive order on FOIA or the OPEN Government Act of 2007. The Pentagon is reportedly updating its handbook. While they’re in there, we hope they incorporate the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016’s “presumption of openness,” too. [DoDIG]
  • The Justice Department says it’s ending the use of private prisons. [Washington Post]
  • Political scientist Ann Baker argues that “the more money a House member gets from people outside the district, the less reflective the member’s ideology is of his or her constituents’ ideology.” [Washington Post]

State and local

  • Accessing court records in Hamilton County, Ohio still requires citizens to visit the courthouse. Open government reformers want to change that state of affairs. [CityBeat]
  • It’s fair to say that “There’s no app that substitutes for public engagement and responsive leadership,” but we’re not quite as pessimistic about the role technology can play in engaging the public and holding political leaders accountable as the authors are of this op-ed. [Boston Globe]


  • ProPublica published its curriculum for its 2016 Data Institute online. This is a fantastic resource for journalists and the general public to increase data literacy. [ProPublica]


  • The “Civil Society Stakeholder Session” originally planned for this spring has been rescheduled for Aug. 23 in D.C., at the National Archives. [RSVP]
  • Public Citizen is hosting a forum focusing on the ongoing presidential transition teams at the National Press Club in D.C. on Sept. 7. [RSVP]
  • The annual Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) Summit will be in New York City, Sept. 15–16. [RSVP]
  • Etalab and Civic Hall are co-organizing an Open Government Partnership Toolbox sprint in New York City on Sept. 21. [RSVP]
  • Collections as Data, at the National Archives in D.C. on Sept. 27. [RSVP]
  • There will be an Open Data Research Symposium in Madrid on Oct. 5. [RSVP]
  • The International Open Data Conference will be in Madrid from Oct. 6–7. [RSVP]
  • Transparency Camp will be in Cleveland, Ohio from Oct. 14-15. [RSVP]
  • The Code for America Summit is in Oakland, Calif. on Nov. 1–3. [RSVP]
  • There will be a workshop on Data and Algorithmic Transparency at Columbia University on Nov. 19. Proposals due Sept. 9. [RSVP]

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