Today in OpenGov: Dispatches from Swamplandia


UNPRECEDENTED: While President-Elect Donald J. Trump would be far from the first wealthy president, he has unique conflicts of interest presented by his domestic and international holdings. [CS Monitor]

Trump has business interests in at least 20 countries around the world

As a massive New York Times feauture documented over the weekend, Trump has business interests in at least 20 countries around the world. [New York Times]

More of Trump’s global conflicts of interest are coming to light every day. We’ve set up a new page at Sunlight to track the conflicts of interest. Please let us know when you see new reports or court filings to add to the document. [READ MORE]

There is no way for a President of United States to recuse himself from making domestic or foreign policy decisions which would have an impact upon his business holdings. Should Mr. Trump decline to shift, his administration may even ran afoul of the Constitution on his first day of office. The Sunlight Foundation joined other open government watchdogs calling on the President-elect to disentangle his business interests from those of the public before entering office — and for Congress to honor its oversight obligations to the American people. If the transition team does not take action now, the potential for the most corrupt administration in history is clear — and a present danger to the republic that we wish to keep.

FALSE: Yesterday, the President-Elect of the United States tweeted that millions of people voted illegally without providing any evidence for the extraordinary, unfounded public assertion. Trump subsequently asserted, again without evidence, that there was “serious voter fraud in Virginia, New Hampshire and California.” Research on election integrity shows that voter fraud has been vanishingly rare in the United States.


  • 123 DAYS: While the New York Times interview last week was significant, the President-elect has not gone before the press corps since Election Day. Mr. Trump’s last press conference was on July 27, 123 days ago. Both President Bush and Obama held a press conference within three days of accepting the results of the election. That’s a number we find more important to accountability than how long it takes the President-elect to build a cabinet.
  • FAUXPEN: While we support the use of websites, apps and social media to inform and engage the public, they are not a substitute for a press conference, as Sunlight’s Melissa Yeager told CBS Local last week. “To not have press conferences, and to not have reporters to challenge the ideas going into the administration, you know, this is really disadvantageous to the public. We don’t get an idea of what his policies are, and how they might affect the American public.” [CBS]
  • Trump named top campaign lawyer Don McGahn as his chief White House counsel. McGahn has been a proponent of removing restrictions on money in politics. [Center for Public Integrity]
  • OPERATION 45: Researcher Ryan Shapiro and lawyer Jeffrey Light’s crowdfunding campaign for Freedom of Information Act lawsuits against an incoming Trump administration has raised $14,636 to date. [Salon]


  • As noted in today’s Secrecy Newsletter by Steven Aftergood, “national security lawyer and former CIA officer Mark A. Bradley was named as the next director of the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), which is responsible for oversight of the national security secrecy system government-wide. He was selected by Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero (ISOO is housed at the National Archives) and his appointment was approved last week by President Obama (the ISOO director reports to the President). Mr. Bradley is an intriguing choice for ISOO director, since he is one of a very small group of individuals who have engaged with government secrecy policy both as an outsider-critic and as an insider-defender.” [FAS]
  • As Julian Hattem reports, despite heavy demand for public records requested under the Freedom of Information Act at the State Department, the federal agency has not been hiring new staff to handle them, “according to a court filing that was made as part of an open records lawsuit launched by the Republican National Committee (RNC). This year, the State Department has been authorized to hire 25 new full-time staffers to work on processing requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). But only one has been hired, Obama administration lawyers disclosed in their filing this week. And only six other postings have been advertised on the government’s official jobs portal, suggesting that 18 of the openings have not even been made public.” When asked to comment, the State Department claimed that “the slowness in hiring new FOIA officials is due to bureaucratic demands and the specialization required of new staffers, who must receive security clearances at the top-secret level.”  [The Hill]
  • The Electronic Information Privacy Center commented on the Department of Homeland Security’s revised Freedom of Information Act regulations, which the reform passed this summer required all federal agencies to update. [EPIC]
  • If you need a refresher for why freedom of information laws matter to informing the public, make sure to read Mike Morisy’s roundup. [MuckRock]
  • 2016 was a busy year for GovTrack, which has been working to make Congress more understandable and transparent to the world for over a decade. Josh Tauberer broke down the improvements to the site and announced it will keep going into 2017. [GovTrack]


  • Minnesota is one of the five states in the Union where at least one legislative body does not publish votes by its members as machine-readable open government data on the Internet. After this year’s election, that may change. “I would be very supportive of getting into the 21st century,” State Senator Carla Nelson told the Pioneer Press. “I think we should have accountability and transparency…by making sure that legislators’ votes are readily available to the public.” [GovTech]
  • Kyle Plantz reported that outside spending and donations from outside of the state dominated races in New Hampshire. [NH Journal]
  • Videos from police dashcams and body cams are ground zero for transparency and accountability in the 21st century. The Associated Press found that in Pennsylvania, the videos are mostly remaining secret. “A statewide survey of how governments handle requests for public records found that police agencies invoked those laws to deny 10 of 25 requests made by employees of Pennsylvania newspapers. In 10 other instances, they said they didn’t have the tapes, either because they had been erased, handed off to prosecutors or other departments or the recorder was turned off or nonexistent.” [AP]


  • What can a public registry of the ownership of private companies tell us? That depends on the quality of open data and who’s looking. Here’s what Global WitnessDataKind UK, OpenCorporates, the Spend Network and OCCRP found when they looked at the United Kingdom’s new website: “almost 3,000 companies listed their beneficial owner as a company with a tax haven address,” “76 beneficial owners share the same name and birthday as someone on the U.S. sanctions list, “and “most beneficial owners are from the UK.”
  • Australia’s commitment to opening data has been called into question by Henry Sherrell. [Henry Sherrell]


  • The Open Government Partnership’s Global Summit will be Dec. 7-9 in Paris, France. Your correspondent will be attending the conference, as I have from the beginning, when the global partnership launched in New York City in 2011. Sunlight’s Steven Larrick will be presenting on “Remix to Reform,” with Greg Jordan-Dettamore. Please send us news and announcements and tune in to #OGPSummit.
  • The Public Interest Declassification Board will hold a public meeting to “discuss recommendations for improved transparency and open government for the new Presidential Administration” in DC on Dec. 8. [RSVP]
  • What events will YOU be attending over the next six months? Write to

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