Today in OpenGov: Trump’s ‘pay to sway’ history, FOIA folly, voting rights and more


OPACITY. Scripps News: “New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has the power to force the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Health Access Initiative to publicly disclose the names of foreign governments and the millions they donate each year to the charities but he’s not doing it.” Commenting on the story, Sunlight’s John Wonderlich noted that “the law requires foreign donors to be disclosed and the [New York] attorney general, the [New York] attorney general’s office is permitting them to go undisclosed. Voters deserve to have a full picture of what Secretary Clinton, and the Clintons together have created, and all the ways that that might be entangled in a presidency.” [READ MORE]

CORRUPT. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s history of “pay to sway” state attorneys general gained more attention this past weekend. Drew Doggett: “As The Washington Post reports, the Trump Foundation violated federal tax rules by donating to a political group connected to former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; as a result, Trump paid a $2,500 fine to the IRS. At the time of the contribution, Bondi was considering whether to open a fraud investigation against Trump University, which she ultimately decided against — read the context behind the improper donation below.” Trump has dismissed allegations of impropriety. [READ MORE]


  • Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton took questions from the press for half an hour on a flight over the long weekend, which closely resembles a press conference. That’s good news. As we told Oliver Darcy, regular press conferences are an essential part of the accountability we expect of the President of the United States and the presidential candidates who aspire to the highest office in the country. Sitting down for hundreds of interviews, including in-depth interviews with national reporters on the campaign trail, can and does inform voters about a candidate’s views but it is not a replacement. The actions of presidential candidate during a campaign are a bellwether for open government and transparency in his or her White House. In a moment when candidates and governments can and do go direct to the public online, taking questions remains relevant. [Business Insider]
  • Speaking of which, the moderators for the presidential debates are set. We hope they all act as advocates for the public and challenge the candidates on the issues and the veracity of their statements. [New York Times]
  • Politifact fact-checked the controversy surrounding the Clinton Foundation. Twice. [Politifact] [Politifact]
  • Trump has shunned lobbyists and using his star power and donations to advance his interests. [Washington Times]
  • Tufts University professor Daniel Drezner took a look at why Clinton’s perceived corruption receives more attention than Trump’s demonstrated corruption. [Washington Post]
  • Related: James Fallows examined the relationship of the American media to democratic norms and expectations. [The Atlantic]
  • As we noted on Friday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a two-part summary [PDF | PDF] of its interview with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about her use of a private email server during her public server. We’re assuming that a lot of you read them over the holiday weekend or coverage of them. Please write to us ( and tell us who covered them the best and what you learned. We’ll follow up tomorrow.
  • Presidential giving is lagging in Arizona. [Arizona Capitol Times]


  • Sunlight talked to the E-Commerce Times about the Obama administration’s new federal source code policy. We expect the government’s use of public cloud for hosting and SaaS to increase, lowering the costs and increasing the pace of experimentation and deployment of Web services, irrespective of the new source code policy. It’s possible that major enterprise firms that sell proprietary SaaS offerings could be affected eventually, but the 20 percent requirement allows considerable flexibility to agencies in procurements. This is a big step forward on internal re-use of code within the federal government and a small step ahead with respect to the re-use of public code outside of agencies. The final policy contains a commendable commitment to public participation in the cooperative development of the policy, with important focus on modular architecture, interoperability through open standards, and considerations regarding sustainability. [E-Commerce Times]
  • Inspectors generals are an fundamental force for accountability in our federal government. Congress and the White House should work together to ensure every open position is filled and supported with oversight. [NY 1]
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation argues that not providing people notice that the federal government is reading their private papers without a warrant is unconstitutional. [EFF]
  • At, Matt Yglesias argued against transparency and for an exemption for government email from FOIA. While we’re glad to see sunshine laws debated, it’s odd not to see open data or the deliberative exemption in FOIA referenced, nor citations of any open government advocates, or much familiarity with the FOIA statute and its overused exemptions for deliberative documents. After considering how history will regard the Obama administration’s record on transparency, we’re still getting our head around a journalist advocating that the FOIA shouldn’t apply to government email.

State and local

  • Eyragon Eidam: “Often the lack of modern search tools and Web best practices make getting to critical information on state legislative portals a challenge.” [GovTech]
  • The Times Union disagrees with New York state’s interpretation of the FOIL statute. [Times Union]
  • Katy Keckdahl: “Millions have been denied the right to cast a ballot after getting out of prison, but now they’re organizing a return to the polls.” [NextCity]



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