SUNLIGHT WILL ENDURE. No need to bury the lede today, as you should have heard this in a separate email from us: The Sunlight Foundation will be an independent, nonpartisan advocate for open government in 2017 under the leadership of Executive Director John Wonderlich. Your correspondent is stepping up to be the new Deputy Director. We’ll have more to share in the weeks and months ahead about what’s next, but the work continues. We hope that the second decade of our work will honor the contributions of the hundreds of our alumni and the tens of thousands of members of our communities. We trust that you will continue to support Sunlight through donations of your time, funds, attention and goodwill. Thank you all for your messages of support and encouragement. [READ MORE]
141 days. President Barack Obama held what is likely to be his last press conference of 2016 today. The last press conference President-elect Donald J. Trump held was on July 27. He has held none since Election Day. Why does it matter? Tamara Keith is spot on: “Unlike other ways of getting messages out, press conferences hold public officials more accountable to the American people because they have to answer questions in an uncontrolled environment.” [NPR]
News organizations are starting to respond appropriately by highlighting the violation of this fundamental democratic norm. (And yes, maintaining democratic norms really matters.) The “number of days since” should start to lead the morning shows and evening news.
- In a letter responding to Senator Tom Carper, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics recommended that President-elect Trump divest from his businesses, stating that transferring a business to your children isn’t a blind trust nor removes conflicts of interest. [NPR]
- Divestiture addresses conflicts of interest in a way that transferring control does not. [GovExec]
- Every day, more conflicts of interest emerge and are catalogued by the media. [The Atlantic]
- According to The Wall Street Journal, however, Trump is not going to divest from his businesses to address the conflicts, unlike Presidents have over the past 4 decades, just as he did not disclose his tax returns.
- This decision is one that members of the Electoral College will have to weigh. [Quartz]
- The Washington Post has launched a genuinely innovative approach to covering the President-elect’s post-factual tweets: a Chrome Web browser plug-in that adds much-needed fact-checking and context to @RealDonaldTrump on Twitter.com. [Washington Post]
- Every nominee to lead a federal agency receives serous scrutiny in a Senate hearing — and in focusing on assembling a cabinet quickly, as compared to past years, the transition team may have set itself up for major headaches in 2017. The Wall Street Journal reports that “picks have been named without extensive reviews of their background and financial records, people familiar with the process say.” Stay tuned. [WSJ]
- The inspector general of the National Security Agency received a termination notice for retaliation against a whistleblower. The Project on Government Oversight reported the outcome, including something important: it’s the result of reform.
“It was reached by following new whistleblower protections set forth by President Obama in an executive order, Presidential Policy Directive 19. (A President Trump could, in theory, eliminate the order.) Following PPD-19 procedures, a first-ever External Review Panel (ERP) composed of three of the most experienced watchdogs in the US government was convened to examine the issue. The trio — IG’s of the Justice Department, Treasury, and CIA – overturned an earlier finding of the Department of Defense IG, which investigated Ellard but was unable to substantiate his alleged retaliation.
“The finding against Ellard is extraordinary and unprecedented,” notes Stephen Aftergood, Director of the Secrecy Program at the Federation of American Scientists. “This is the first real test drive for a new process of protecting intelligence whistleblowers. Until now, they’ve been at the mercy of their own agencies, and dependent on the whims of their superiors. This process is supposed to provide them security and a procedural foothold.” [POGO]
- Related: Congress passed legislation that will empower inspectors general. [Daily Caller]
- Surveillance reform include the need for Congress to affirm that there’s no place for secret law in our democracy. [Access Now]
- The Department of Defense has launched a new open data platform, data.mil. [Meritalk]
- Speaking of open data, fears are rising that a Trump administration would remove data from federal websites, or, worse yet, delete it altogether. [Politico]
- The ways that Trump administration handles open government data, however, may be more subtle than that, as we and others told 538. “What does have observers worried are two things in particular: budget cuts that could significantly impact data collection and quality, particularly within the government’s statistical agencies — those that produce key economic indicators like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Bureau of Economic Analysis; and the willful miscommunication of scientific research that proves politically inconvenient to the White House.” [FiveThirtyEight]
- We’ll see. In the meantime, the SEC may issue a rule on open data before the next administration comes into power. [FCW]
STATE AND LOCAL
- Want to get an amazing download of insight about how open data can help cities and communities around the United States? Watch the video embedded above, in which Sunlight’s Stephen Larrick and Kate Rabinowitz of DataLensDC talk with Michael A. Shea from Arlington Independent Media.
- Lawmakers in New Jersey are considering a bill that would change a “state law that requires governments, businesses, and individuals to publish legal notices in printed newspapers.” Moving all government notices completely online would leave seniors and poor in data poverty. Every state must get everyone online before leaving print entirely. [NJ.com]
- Civic technology and engagement can and should reach into county-level government. [TechCrunch]