Today in OpenGov: Presidents and reformers warn democracies are at risk


UNDER THREAT? The latest dispatch from Paris, where President Francois Hollande and open government reformers warned that democracy is at risk:

Authoritarianism is rising. Populism is upending the political order. Spaces for civil society are closing. Those are the somber messages that arose again and again at the first day of the annual Open Government Partnership Summit, a global conference that convened thousands of activists and officials in Paris.

Where previous annual conferences have featured optimistic reflections upon the world and the arc of its politics on stage, with undercurrents of warnings from journalists and advocates about restrictions, surveillance and ongoing secrecy percolating through the rooms and halls and online discussions, the 2016 version had more overt – or as they say here in France, “ouvert,” for open – recognition of a change in political context.

HALT: Sunlight joined an open government coalition calling on President Obama and Congress to halt any efforts to weaken the Freedom of Information Act or Privacy Act. The letter requested that the White House Office of Management and Budget not approve any pending rule “that would expand the ability of a government agency to exempt their system of records from Privacy Act obligations by asserting a ‘routine use’ or other exemption.” Read the full letter here.

CONTINUE! As hoped and expected, ProPublica is doing a terrific job absorbing and standing up the Sunlight Labs tools it adopted. In a new update, Derek Willis explained the state of play: “Three of the five projects are currently online, while the other two are not. Most of the projects are connected to Congress in some way, which means time is of the essence: The next House and Senate will convene on Jan. 3, 2017, and we want to have these projects as ready as possible by that date.”

DIVEST: Sunlight’s Melissa Yeager considered recent tweets by the President-elect and calls for more transparency:

On a conference call Tuesday with reporters, spokesman Jason Miller claimed Trump sold all his stock in June and that he was unaware if Boeing stock was among those sold. Once again, we find the business of the president-elect in conflict with his financial holdings.

This is not enough to prove there is a line between the presidency and Trump business interests come Jan. 20. The Trump organization needs to provide proof of the sale and also work to give the American people any proof that Trump is building a wall between himself and his business interests. The best way to do that would be for him to divest. This is not a partisan issue. It’s an American issue.

AND YET: Trump acknowledged that his stock holdings present(ed?) a conflict of interest, but according to the New York Times, Trump “is considering formally turning over the operational responsibility for his real estate company to his two adult sons, but he intends to keep a stake in the business and resist calls to divest, according to several people briefed on the discussions.”

It appears the Office of Government Ethics was premature on congratulating the President-elect on deciding to divest, as its lawyers recommended.

In the meantime, Sunlight is continuing to add to our page tracking President-elect Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest.


  • Trump’s nomination of a third general to his cabinet is raising concerns about military influence in the new administration. [Washington Post]
  • Beyond the cabinet, the slow pace of the transition in agencies is ringing some alarm bells in DC. “Obama administration officials assigned to the transition say Trump’s representatives have been AWOL at some agencies, leaving them sitting on binders full of briefing materials that have been amassed since March.” [Politico]



  • Zarah Rahman called attention to the role data collection plays in genocides. [The Engine Room]
  • In a new paper, Jonathan Fox argued that “argues that the growing field of transparency, participation and accountability (TPA) needs a conceptual reboot, to address the limited traction gained so far on the path to accountability,” suggesting a vertical approach instead.
  • The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a new book on open government, considering “the global context and a way forward.” Your correspondent has a lot of reading for the plane ride home.


  • The Open Government Partnership’s Global Summit is ongoing in Paris, France. Sunlight’s Steven Larrick will be presenting on “Remix to Reform,” with Greg Jordan-Dettamore. Please send us news and announcements.
  • 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