Today in OpenGov: FARA faults, transparency on the trail, FOILing open government orders


LOOKING AHEAD: This morning, Sunlight joined a panel of open government advocates at a launch event for Global Legislative Openness Week to talk through what the 115th Congress could (and should) do to build on a decade of progress. [READ MORE]

FARA AFIELD: A new Justice Department report gave a mixed review of the execution of FARA, highlighting the need for greater enforcement of disclosure rules and citing frequent delays and lack of follow up. [READ MORE]

IRONY: Sunlight had to file a FOIA request in order to receive a copy of a mayoral order on open government. [READ MORE]

OPEN TO ALL: Anastasia Diamond-Ortiz, director of strategy and innovation at Cleveland Public Library: “Cleveland Public Library is positively thrilled to be the host of this year’s TransparencyCamp, a natural fit given our mission of promoting the open and free exchange of information.” [READ MORE]

We hope you agree! Registration is open for TransparencyCamp in Cleveland on October 14-15. Please submit a session, spread the word and come! [REGISTER]


  • David Farenthold has been trying to find GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s charitable donations for months using a pen and paper, turning up no evidence that backs up the candidate’s public statements. This weekend, he published a new piece: “An investigation of the foundation — including examinations of 17 years of tax filings and interviews with more than 200 individuals or groups listed as donors or beneficiaries — found that it collects and spends money in a very unusual manner. For one thing, nearly all of its money comes from people other than Trump. In tax records, the last gift from Trump was in 2008. Since then, all of the donations have been other people’s money — an arrangement that experts say is almost unheard of for a family foundation.”  [Washington Post]
  • Separately, Trump called for no debate moderators, which would brush aside another political norm in the United States. The  Commission on Presidential Debates does not appear inclined to cooperate. [Huffington Post]
  • Former New York Times editor Jill Abramson called on Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to embrace transparency. [Guardian]
  • This weekend saw heated political debate regarding how transparent presidential candidates should be about their health. As with tax returns, in the absence of a legal mandate our expectations of medical disclosures follow precedent and established political norms. In 1944, FDR’s aides were able to keep his heart problems secret. JFK’s Addison’s disease was unknown to the public before election. Our expectations for prompt, full disclosure are now higher.

  • On that count, Dylan Byers says that Senator John McCain set a gold standard for transparency on his health in 2008. [CNN]


  • Patrice McDermott and Emily Manna: “Secrecy breeds mistrust, and if the government hopes to secure broad public support for its trade deals, it must stop conducting major trade negotiations almost entirely behind closed doors. The American public has a right to know what the government is doing in our name, particularly when the consequences are so far-reaching.” [The Hill]
  • A new report from the Congressional Research — on the advocacy of terrorism on the internet and freedom of speech issues — published online by the Federation of American Scientists provides insight into the advice lawmakers are receiving on the issue. As Steven Aftergood notes, “For punishment of speech advocating violence to be constitutional, ‘the speaker must both intend to incite a violent or lawless action and that action must be likely to imminently occur as a result.'” [FAS]
  • Nina Burleigh took a look back the Bush White House’s record on the preservation of public records, including 22 million emails that went missing. [Newsweek]
  • David Brock wrote a letter to the State Department advocating that every document it releases should be published simultaneously to the agency’s FOIA website. While Brock’s organization is an unabashed partisan, he’s asking for a policy Sunlight and the White House supports: a “release to one, release to all” approach to FOIA.  [Correct the Record]
  • The Intercept obtained manuals that explain how to use Stingrays — cellphone surveillance gear — for surveillance. [The Intercept]
  • Steven Levy wrote up the career of one of the nation’s most important — and successful — open government advocates: Carl Malamud. [Backchannel]
  • “Slowly but surely, Congress will join us in the 21st century,” writes Lorelei Kelly. [TechCrunch]


  • A documentary revealed corruption by President Abdulla Yameen and the Maldives government. The journalists who investigated the story are now being targeted by that government. [Al Jazeera]
  • The Government Digital Service wrote about “registers in a digital ecosystem” — which is to say, government databases in the internet age. [GDS]
  • 15 governments in the Open Government Partnership’s subnational pilot program are going to meet in DC on September 15-16. It’s not clear how or even whether the program will be open to the press or public. [Open Government Partnership]



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