Today in OpenGov: The Court of Public Opinion is now in Sessions

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In today’s issue, we look at who the U.S. Attorney General talked to, when, and why. We also explore new federal design standards, highlight an open data privacy handbook, and remind you that Sunshine Week is coming soon!

align=”center”>The court of public opinion…

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is in hot water over conversations that he had with the Russian Ambassador to the United States during the Presidential election. During his confirmation hearing, Sessions claimed that he had no contact with Russian officials as a surrogate to Donald Trump’s campaign. He also answered a written question about contact with Russian officials about the 2016 election with a simple “no.” (Washington Post)

After conversations between Sessions and the ambassador were confirmed, a Sarah Isgur Flores, a spokeswoman for the new U.S. Attorney General, rejected accusations that he had misled lawmakers and portrayed the contacts that he had with Ambassador Sergey Kislyak as being part of his work as a senator rather than as a key backer of Trump’s presidential bid.” (Bloomberg Politics)

Numerous Democrats, and some Republicans, in Congress reacted to the story with demands for Sessions to recuse himself from any Department of Justice investigation and renewed calls for a special prosecutor to investigate ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. (POLITICO)

Access is everything

  • We’ve gone backwards from promises to bring CSPAN cameras into health care legislation discussions to secrecy. Congress is now discussing the next draft of a bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act in secret, in a basement room. The bill is not online, people who see it can’t take a copy, and the Members and staffers who were present aren’t talking about it. Not so open. (Bloomberg Politics)
  • A federal judge in Manhattan ruled in favor of a freelance journalists, arguing that the NYPD may have violated the journalists first amendment rights by revoking his press credentials. The ruling seems particularly timely in the wake of the White House’s exclusion of news organizations from a briefing last week. ““If you exclude reporters from briefings that they otherwise have a right to attend because you don’t like their reporting, then you have engaged in viewpoint discrimination…” which is almost always unconstitutional, according to First Amendment lawyer Jameel Jaffer. (New York Times)

designing federal websites

On Monday, the federal government quietly launched  the 1.0 release of the U.S. Web Design Standards: https://standards.usa.gov/ These standards are now in use on more than 100+ government websites, from Apps.gov to Vets.gov. A draft version of them has been in development since 2015.

In the Obama era, we would have learned about the standards through a post on the White House blog and tweeted out. In this administration, design, data and digital government have not been included in public communications from the White House.

We expect these standards to not only lead to better use of taxpayers dollars, including savings and efficiencies, but tangible improvements to the digital services and products that our government creates and provides to the public.

State and Local

Researchers at Harvard University published an Open Data Privacy Playbook earlier this week. The report aims to help cities balance the risks and benefits of open data. “In the absence of clear-cut regulations, cities have always been somewhat haphazard about how they release data, and how they protect it.” (CityLab)
Boston released a beta version of its new open data platform this week. “The new portal — called Analyze Boston — pulls together data sets from the city’s map showcase and tabular data stores, organizes the data into topics like public safety or transportation, implements a consistent public domain license across all city data, tags data sets that are no longer maintained with a “legacy portal” tag and uses an open source CKAN service managed by OpenGov.” (StateScoop)

events

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