Today in OpenGov: Tuning into the presidential debates, Googling the vote out, responsible data & more



REGISTER THIS: was the #1 federal website all weekend long after Facebook prompted its users to visit and register to vote. Today’s Google Doodle honored National Voter Registration Day by linking users to its homepage to its voter registration guide. [Sunlight]

GODAN: Our view on the recently concluded Global Open Data in Agriculture and Nutrition Summit:

“Until the secretaries, ministers, academics, advocates and non-governmental organizations that are casting an optimistic light upon the role of open data recognize the persistent issues around copyright, proprietary data, and powerful industrial interests, the rhetoric is not going to yield real change. Sustainability, resilience and responsibility need to be the watchwords of the global open data movement in every context, in agriculture and nutrition as much as in telecommunications and consumer technology.” [READ MORE]

ANALYZE THIS: Emily Shaw used Census data and tax records to learn which towns and cities depend the most on funds from court fines and forfeitures. Her conclusion: 

“Cities and their police departments may see increasing their dependence fines as a viable strategy for funding the government. However, the cost of running a revenue generation scheme through the criminal justice system is that things can very quickly get bad for the people who are required to pay for it. Municipalities can compound the financial hazard for the people who are fined by contracting with private probation collectors, who are allowed to add additional, legally-enforceable fees and interest to the amount that the court originally required.

To get details about how revenue-raising policing is working specifically, we need reporters to continue to dig into details and governments to respond to public records requests. Transparency and accountability must go together. In the meantime, the rest of us do have some public data sources which we can use to begin to answer the question.” [READ MORE]

IT’S ON: As we noted last Friday, TransparencyCamp is happening from October 14-15 in Cleveland. Please tune in to #TCamp16 for updates on Twitter, register and submit a session idea! [READ MORE]

DISCLOSE: Sunlight joined the Campaign Legal Center and the Benton Foundation in filing a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission against Scripps’ WCPO-TV Cincinnati because the agency isn’t enforcing the law on political ad disclosure. [B&C]

THANK YOU:  Seamus Kraft collected heartwarming memories from former staffers and our allies about what Sunlight has meant to them and the world. [Medium]

REFLECTIONS: Kin Lane wrote about what people can learn from Sunlight Labs (stay tuned for more news) and Nathaniel Heller explored what he found frustrating about the situation.


  • Tonight will be one of the biggest nights of the 2016 presidential campaign, when Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton face off at Hoffstra University at 9:00 PM ET. You can watch the forum on broadcast TV, cable news or in approximately one bazillion different livestreams – and more, as Christine Cupaiuolo reported, from virtual reality to social media and fact-checking.  [Civicist]
  • Here’s an open government failure worth noting: the Commission on Presidential Debates has declined to release or even discuss this year’s rules with media. That’s a troubling lack of transparency and accountability to the public. [NBC News]
  • While your correspondent plans on watching C-SPAN on the big screen tonight, the unprecedented variety of options includes some notable interactives. One to watch, so to speak, is, which will be carrying Bloomberg’s stream. It is the only network or news organization that we are aware of that will be putting fact-checking over the video – and the fact Twitter is carrying it will amplify the checks into a relatively small but influential audience. [Politico]
  • The Trump campaign transition team leads are being reported by media, not disclosed to the public. The presidential transitions are falling short of the transparency the public deserves. [Washington Post]
  • Remember, preventing the next Watergate means that presidential campaigns need to embed start openness now, not after Election Day. [POGO]
  • If you need a laugh, last night’s “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver took a look at the scandals of this campaign season last night. Video is embedded tomorrow.


  • Delayed progress: the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Defense Department, and the Department of Labor have now all published 2016 Open Government Plans. Treasury, Interior, HUD, DHS and Veterans Affairs have still not complied with President Obama’s executive order.  [Sunlight]
  • The Berkman-Klein Center published a new paper on open data and privacy. [Harvard]
  • Congress passed a law in 2010 that provided bonuses to government workers who accurately classifiy and declassify records. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that workers are claiming them. [EFF]
  • Here are 27 things that reporter Sarah Westwood learned from reading through the additional 189 pages of documents that the FBI published from its investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. [Washington Examiner]
  • If you’re looking for great journalists to follow on transparency, we recommend Josh Gerstein, Glenn Greenwald and Jason Leopold.


  • Humanizing data will improve our communities, argues Sunlight’s Noel Isama:

    “What we found was that while data and evidence-based decision making is prominent in how cities operate, there is a realization by those in city government and those that work with them of the need to “humanize” data through community engagement and the cross-referencing of data from different parts of government and the public. All of which cannot happen without open access to and easy distribution of data held by governments, along with a concerted effort in reaching out to communities. This humanizing of data allows for solutions to be crafted that are impactful, sustainable and inclusive.” [Sunlight]

  • An investment group acquired GovDelivery, which operates government and civic technology projects of interest to many in Sunlight’s communities. [Huffington Post]


  • The Open Government Partnership celebrated its 5th anniversary and announced the suspension of Turkey. [FreedomInfo]
  • Government corruption is a key factor in enabling the trafficking of elephant ivory in Asia. [Guardian]
  • Australia’s Tax Office said that a Freedom of Information website, Right to Know, is “cluttering up the Internet” by publishing procedural message related to FOI requests. Here’s the thing: while redacting personal details from records is in the public interest, disclosing the names of government officials doing government business by handling requests is another matter. Around the world, reporters find that publishing their “procedural correspondence” with FOIA staff is a lever for transparency, accountability and responsiveness. [Canberra Times]



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