Today in OpenGov: Why Trump’s conflicts of interest matter, the state of global lobbying disclosure, and no drone zones


DIVESTITURE: The Sunlight Foundation has been compiling a growing list of conflicts of interest for President-Elect Donald Trump. The New York Times published a series of graphics illuminating Trump’s conflicts of interest around the globe. Bloomberg is also out with an interactive that explores “where he has business interests abroad, his stock portfolio, his debts and ongoing government action.”

Today, Sunlight’s Melissa Yeager explained why President-elect Trump’s conflicts of interests matter. In her piece, Yeager outlines the risks these conflicts pose to entrenching corruption in American politics and issues a call for Trump to put the business of the American people before that of the Trump Organization.

The Sunlight Foundation has 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. Contrary to the President-elects statements, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey, “60% of Likely U.S. Voters are at least somewhat concerned that Trump’s business interests will influence his decisions during his presidency, including 44% who are Very Concerned.”

To avoid conflicts of interest, Trump should follow the recommendations from the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and the past two White House ethics counsels, and good government groups: divest and place the proceeds in a blind trust overseen by an independent overseer.


  • 126 DAYS: Trump’s last press conference was on July 27, 2016. Both President Bush and Obama held a press conference within three days of accepting the results of the election. As we said before the election, regular press conferences are an essential part of the accountability we can and should expect of the President of the United States – and a President-elect. Just as the actions of presidential candidate during a campaign are a bellwether for open government and transparency in his or her White House, the transparency and accountability of a President-elect are a preview for the White House to come. In a moment when presidents can and do go direct to the public online, taking questions from the press in public forums remains relevant to democracy.


  • Congress has allowed Rule 41 to go into effect, enabling law enforcement to legally hack into millions of computing device at once using a single search warrant. [USA Today]
  • If you haven’t been paying attention to what’s happening in North Dakota, tune in. The protests over a proposed pipeline have become ground zero for freedom of speech and assembly of the press in the 21st century. As Jason Koebler reports, video captured by drones has documented government actions — and the FAA has now set up and attempted to enforce a no-fly zone for the drones in response.

    “Experts say the no fly zone is a blatant violation of the First Amendment that has normalized a chilling precedent set by the FAA during the 2014 protests in Ferguson following the police killing of Mike Brown.

    By any definition of the word, the drone pilots documenting the Dakota Access Pipeline protests are conducting journalism. The videos, live streamed to Facebook and later posted on YouTube, have shown human rights abuses, caught police in lies, and—in the case of the numerous videos that show their drones being shot at by police—have documented law enforcement committing federal crimes. Many of the videos have thousands of views on YouTube and millions of people have seen them on Facebook.

    “This no fly zone is a clear violation of news gathering rights that are protected by the First Amendment,” Roy Gutterman, director of the University of Syracuse’s Tully Center for Free Speech, told me. “Using drones for news gathering is a viable modern technique, and this looks like it’s a government action clearly aimed at limiting access to a public place.” [Motherboard]

  • collects and publishes legal opinions from court websites and data donations. It’s like a GovTrack for the judicial branch, says Josh Tauberer  — who’s a good source on such assessments. We hope you find it useful and support them. [GovTrack]



  • Sunlight’s Libby Watson looked at online lobbying registers around the world to see how difficult is to track influence abroad. The answer probably won’t surprise you: It’s extremely difficult. “What we have with this list is, at least, the beginnings of a guide to lobbying registers in other countries,” she writes. “It’s very surprising how little comparative information exists about lobbying regulations around the world — though that might be partly because so few countries regulate lobbying at all, and would have no data to disclose.” We’ve published a spreadsheet listing many of them, embedded above, to serve as a public resource. [READ MORE]


  • 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]
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