In today’s edition we travel the globe to cover some major stories, check in on the President’s latest conflicts, highlight a new open data portal in Maryland, and more…
Around the World
- South Korea officially ousted its president amid a corruption probe. “A South Korean court unanimously affirmed parliament’s impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, removing her from office and opening the door for her to face jail time in one of the most stunning political downfalls in the nation’s history.” An election will be held within 60 days to replace Park, who was impeached in December amid a corruption investigation. (Bloomberg)
- A new database visualizes nearly 300 billion Euros worth of EU subsidies. “Open Knowledge Germany and Open Knowledge International launched SubsidyStories.eu: a database containing all recipients of EU Structural Funds” which account for 44% of the European Union’s spending over a 7 year budget cycle. (Open Knowledge)
- Despite a national push towards open government most Brazilian cities still have a long way to go. Many Brazilian cities lack the human, technological, and financial capacity to “pursue real transparency and public participation.” The WRI Brazil ROSS Center for Sustainable Cities is working with the OGP Subnational Pilot city of São Paulo to “to bring attention to OGP principles” to municipalities across Brazil. (Open Government Partnership)
- The fragile coalition governing Spain is threatened by a corruption fight. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised a series of anti-corruption actions as part of a deal that gave his party a governing majority late last year. Now, the leader of the second most powerful party in the coalition claims Rajoy “is refusing to implement the anti-corruption measures that he promised.” (POLITICO)
Ethics in Trumpland
House Oversight wants details about the White House’s compliance with record-keeping laws. “In letters to the White House and to the agencies, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) raised questions about reports that federal employees — and White House staff — may be circumventing federal laws by using unofficial electronic communications, such as private e-mail and encrypted messaging apps.” (FedScoop)
- The Office of Government Ethics has concerns about Conway’s actions. “Walter M. Shaub Jr., who runs the Office of Government Ethics, said he remained concerned about comments last month by Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to President Donald Trump, encouraging Fox News viewers to purchase Ivanka Trump-branded products after some retailers announced they were discontinuing the presidential daughter’s line.” Shaub’s concerns were outlined in a letter to the Chaffetz and Cummings, who had previously “had asked Shaub to look into the Conway matter, which, experts agreed, appeared to be a textbook example of an ethics violation — using her official White House position to endorse products.” (Roll Call)
- The grass has never been greener at Trump golf courses. The Trump brand is as hot as ever, according to Eric Trump. What he didn’t mention is the convenient product placement that comes with the family patriarch’s new role as President of the United States. (New York Times)
- Is President Trump a walking ethics violation? That’s likely for the courts to decide. ” A lot of people — New York’s attorney general, law professors, Washington restaurant owners — think President Donald Trump is breaking laws by holding onto his businesses. The trouble is, a month and a half into his presidency, they’re still searching for a successful courtroom strategy to force him to divest.” (POLITICO)
- The Media: As we argued on Facebook, the Secretary of State’s decision to leave behind the press corps on his trip to Asia is a step backwards for open government at the U.S. Department of State and an invitation for other nations to restrict media access when the United States visits. We urge the State Department to acknowledge the mistake and include the press on this occasion and future trips. For more, see the story on Poynter.
- Independent Budget Analysis: As President Trump gears up to support House GOP efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act he has taken aim at the Congressional Budget Office. The nonpartisan agency staffed by economists and statisticians is just the latest “example of Mr. Trump’s team casting doubt on benchmarks accepted as trustworthy for decades.” (New York Times)
- Transparency? The Trump administration has declined to comment on stories questioning his commitment to open government, while his allies claim he believes in transparency. We believe that if he is serious about the principals of open government, the President should go on the record when asked about it. For more see The Spokesman-Review.
State of the cities
- Prince George’s County, MD rolled out a major update to their open data website this week. The relaunched website, Data Prince George’s, is powered by Socrata’s platform and “gives the public the power to probe, download and search data sets about everything from building permits to crime.” (Washington Post via NFOIC)
- Power imbalances in Detroit housing data highlight the need for “information justice”. “The reality in Detroit undermines one of the most deeply held beliefs of open-access evangelists: that more transparency is better than less. At its best, open data can hold the powerful accountable. But it can also expose the weak and the powerful alike, with mixed results.” (Civicist)
- Four questions to kick start data driven governance. What Work’s Cities — of which Sunlight is a part — is helping mid-sized cities “leverage the power of data and evidence to improve outcomes such as increased public safety and a healthier fiscal bottom line.” (Data-Smart City Solutions)
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