Today in OpenGov: Let the Sunshine In


In today’s edition we help prepare you for Sunshine Week, explore the latest Wikileaks revelations, keep our eye on the influence industry, and more…

Sunshine Week

From the Sunlight blog: “Next week is Sunshine Week, the annual celebration of open government around the United States started over a decade ago by the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Transparency and accountability are understandably on the minds of many Americans today, with continued secrecy, overclassification and public officials evading accountability.”

“This year, we unfortunately…have to confront attacks on the legitimacy of free press and journalists head on. It’s a pivotal moment in our country’s history for defending the important of access to information and shared facts.”

  • Sunlight is celebrating with a discussion on the past, present, and future of open government that will feature some of the nation’s leading experts on transparency from the Project on Government Oversight, the Federation of American Scientists, and the American Society of News Editors. The discussion is free and so is the pizza, wine, and beer!
  • There are a ton of other events happening in Washington, DC and around the country. For a complete list head on over the the main Sunshine Week event page.
  • MuckRock is celebrating Sunshine Week by honoring “the activists, the watchdogs, and everyday concerned citizens that make an impact…” on the public’s right to know. Do you know someone who is making a heroic impact with FOIA? Let them know!

Nothing but net neutrality

Sunlight joined 170 other organizations on a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission and the Senate to protect net neutrality rules first passed in 2015.

“Arguing that the rules support competition, innovation, free speech and equal access on the internet, the letter urges the officials to oppose any new regulatory or legislative action that would undermine net neutrality.” (The Hill)

Given our decade of advocacy for making public information available and equally accessible to the public online, we are not neutral ourselves on this issue. We have supported net neutrality in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

states and cities

Yesterday, New York City celebrated the 5th anniversary of its landmark open data law with a refresh of its municipal data website. If you’re unfamiliar, Local Law 11 of 2012 mandated that all public data be published online by the end of 2018.

“Open data is a window into what’s happening in every neighborhood in our city, bringing our dedication to transparency and accountability to life,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “This is information that belongs to New Yorkers, and through the new homepage, it’s easier than ever to find, understand, and use it. We’re proud to be doing our part putting this information up – now, we want even more New Yorkers to discover, benefit and build from it.”

In a statement, the city highlighted that it has now published over 1,600 open data sets, “including 311 complaints to crime incidents by neighborhood to the location of every street tree in the city,”

As we told the city, we’re glad to see the Big Apple’s progress.

“While the work of open government is never done, the commitment that New York City has shown to learning from its own experiences, from the evolution of the BigApps contest to upgrades of its open data platform and the data on it, provide a global example for a metropolis in the 21st century, said Alex Howard, Deputy Director at Sunlight Foundation. “Over the last decade, New York City has shown that improving public access to public information using modern technologies is not a Republican or Democratic idea: it’s an American one, based upon shared democratic principles. In the year ahead, we will look to New York to continue to demonstrate the importance of evidence-based policies in good governance, based upon shared facts grounded in trustworthy open data disclosed directly to the public online.”

“Increasingly, cities are realizing that technical access on its own is not enough when it comes to open data,” said Stephen Larrick, Open Data Lead at Sunlight Foundation. “To meet resident needs and ensure impact on the ground, addressing the issue of “data poverty” that the city has rightly prioritized, open data releases must connect to community dialogue, civic engagement and user feedback. 5 years ago, New York City set a precedent for cities everywhere with Local Law 11. Today, we continue to see New York at the leading edge of civic technology through connecting open data to people using human-centered design.”

  • Brian Purchia details “a new generation of civic-minded tech entrepreneurs [who are] are taking center stage — helping empower people with modern online tools and working to fix structural problems to make our government more transparent and accountable.” (GovFresh)

Leaked; hacked?

Yesterday WikiLeaks posted more than 8,000 documents purported to be from the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence. The documents claim to detail CIA efforts to “hack into devices, from Apple Inc.’s iPhones and phones based on Google’s Android system to Samsung “smart” televisions, in order to monitor conversations and messages.” (Bloomberg)
  • The Atlantic took a look at reporting on yesterday’s leaks in the context of the U.S. Media’s ongoing “hard look at its tumultuous love affair with WikiLeaks…” in the wake of revelations that documents leaked during the campaign “were stolen by Russian hackers and passed along to WikiLeaks for publication”. Despite efforts to rethink their participating in amplifying information released by WikiLeaks “the new…reporting didn’t look much different than the old…reporting.”
  • President Trump was a big fan of WikiLeaks during the 2016 election campaign, but he has changed his tune on leaks more generally since taking his chair in the Oval Office. “Trump is having to confront the threat of hacking, along with leaks from within his own administration — and, suddenly, he is not a fan.” (Washington Post)

Influence: The industry that never sleeps

  • Republicans in the House of Representatives are looking to bring back earmarks after a long hiatus on the pet-projects. Members of their party in the Senate aren’t too pleased by the idea. Six GOP Senators “urged President Donald Trump to commit to vetoing any bill that includes earmarks, pushing back against a nascent House GOP bid to restore the congressional pet projects.” The list included Libertarian leaning Senators like Rand Paul as well as more moderate members of the party like John McCain. (POLITICO)
  • “K Street’s most generous political donors paid out a record sum during the 2016 campaign cycle, and many of them say they are already opening their wallets for next year’s elections despite fatigue at the pace of fundraising requests.” (Roll Call)
  • Public Citizen is asking the secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House to investigate allegations that Carl Icahn — a billionaire friend of President Trump — violated “lobbying rules by pushing the White House to change the federal ethanol regulations.” (POLITICO)

Around the World

  • A Pakistani perspective on tax transparency for elected officials: “it may seem strange that Pakistan – a country so often associated with corruption – is in one respect the benchmark for transparency. When it comes to the disclosure of politicians’ tax affairs, the likes of Philip Hammond and Donald Trump have something to learn from my country.” (The Guardian)
  • Official corruption is being uncovered all over Brazil. “A three-year-old nationwide corruption probe, dubbed Car Wash, is inspiring a frenzy of similar operations by local prosecutors and police, who are uncovering a staggering degree of corruption and sparking turmoil across the country.” (Wall Street Journal)


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