Today in OpenGov: Tracking Trump’s Conflicts


Today’s look at #OpenGov news, events, & analysis, including follow up from yesterday’s section on leaks and some good news out of Iowa…

Opening Up in Iowa

Congratulations to the City of Des Moines, Iowa,  for passing a resolution establishing their #opendata program. Sunlight’s Noel Isama was proud to join city officials and our partners in What Works Cities to mark the historic occasion. We look forward to seeing improved access to information and civic outcomes for Iowans!

Tracking trump’s conflicts

A number of news organizations have taken creative approaches to tracking President Trump’s potential conflicts of interest. Notably, “NPR…created an entirely new initiative to cover possible conflicts of interest. They tapped veteran business editor Marilyn Geewax to lead the Conflicts Team, which has three full-time staffers and an intern.” (Poynter)

The team even launched a dedicated tool, the Trump Ethics Monitor to track commitments made by the President and his associates to address some conflicts of interest and ethical concerns. All Things Considered talked to one of the journalists behind the tool.

  • Meanwhile, “Even as Donald Trump was kicking lobbyists off his presidential transition team, he was quietly cashing checks from them.” (The Center for Public Integrity)

dump duns

Ending the federal government’s reliance on the proprietary DUNS Number to track huge range of entities that it does business with has long been a priority of the Sunlight Foundation. Recent developments provide some hope that the goal may be closer than ever.

“By 2018, the General Services Administration will have paid Dun & Bradstreet more than $131 million over the last eight years for access and use of the Data Universal Numbering System (DUNS)…This may be the last time D&B receives this type of contract from the government.” (Federal News Radio)

Last week the GSA put out a Request For Information on alternatives to the DUNS Number and will be taking public comments until March 13. (DATA Coalition, Government Executive)


  • The Electronic Privacy Information Center “scored a pair of legal wins Tuesday in a court battle with the FBI over access to studies the law enforcement agency has done of how its own record-keeping systems could impact personal privacy.” (POLITICO)
  • Ajit Pai has moved to shake up the Federal Communications Commission in his first month as chairman. Several moves seem to trend towards transparency, but observers caution “…the changes could backfire, by working in lobbyists’ favor, slowing down the commission, or putting its rulings in a legally precarious position. Some also questioned how committed Pai was to transparency, pointing out that he’s been less than forthcoming about the commission’s most controversial actions.” (The Verge)
  • POLITICO Magazine profiled Don McGahn, the former FEC commissioner and President Trump’s current White House Counsel. The article focuses on Mr. McGahn’s time at the FEC… “Years later, McGahn’s FEC tenure is instructive as he settles into his role as the White House counsel, advising Trump on conflicts of interest, national security, executive orders, campaign finance, regulations and, most recently, Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, Neil Gorsuch.”

Leaks in context

A reader pointed out that The New Yorker piece we shared yesterday has received some vigorous criticism, including a comprehensive breakdown of Malcom Gladwell’s “good leaker theory” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation…

“But whistleblowers should be judged on whether they brought seriously improper and illegal government or corporate activities to light, not based on who they are or where they sit in an elite hierarchy. That doesn’t mean that there can never be any potential consequences for whistleblowing. But making public something that people in a functioning democracy deserve to know should take a whistleblower firmly out of the reach of the Espionage Act or other serious felonies that the government put in its indictment against Mr. Snowden.”

We want to thank the reader for sharing this important context and encourage everyone to do the same if you know of a story that we’re not covering or context that we missed. Let us know what you’re reading at


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, commetns, concerns, and tips to, we would love your feedback!