In today's edition, we check in on Seattle's open data program, track tweaks to President Trump's trust, ask why NASA is making it harder to access information via FOIA, look for French campaign cash, and more
states and cities
- Seattle shows progress with new open data reports. "The Seattle Open Data Program has published its 2016 Annual Report and its 2017 Open Data Plan, giving the city a look into its recent past and upcoming future." The documents come on the heels of a new executive order that pushes city agencies to expand their use of data and analytics. (Government Technology) Sunlight's Alyssa Doom congratulated the city, noting that the program is exceeding its stated goals.
- Looking to recruit tech talent to your city? Follow these steps. "Based on my experience in city government, as well as many conversations with mayors, department heads and chief data officers, I’ve learned that improving communications to job-seekers and creating a more tech-friendly city environment can go a long way toward appealing to the best of the IT world. Here are five steps cities can take to make their data and IT offices a hub for tech talent" (Data-Smart City Solutions)
- Tiny Washington newspaper sued by government agency following records request. The weekly Malheur Enterprise "was sued this past week by a state agency. Not because the paper did anything wrong, but because it’s pursuing public records in a horrific murder case of intense interest in the town. The government wants to shield the records, and make the paper pay its court costs…" (Seattle Times via NFOIC)
around the world
- Launching a new beneficial ownership registry in the wake of the Panama Papers. "This year, we – a group of civil society organizations and business(link is external) – are presenting a new project that will incite a culture shift toward corporate transparency. OpenOwnership(link is external)’s central goal is to build an open data register of global beneficial ownership in the public interest. The OpenOwnership Register will serve as a single platform from which to access data about who owns companies from around the world in a way that is easy to use, and totally free." (Open Government Partnership)
- French far-right candidate Marine Le Pen struggling to find financing at foreign banks. "Le Pen’s team has sent about a dozen requests to banks in Russia, the U.S., Italy, India, Indonesia and the U.K. on top of her applications to French financial institutions, according to her strategic adviser Louis Aliot." Le Pen reportedly needs around $15 million to fund her campaign plans. (Bloomberg)
- New book investigates financial links between Asian dictators, western power. "Weak, corrupt, and politically unstable, the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are dismissed as isolated and irrelevant to the outside world. But are they? Based on years of research and involvement in the region, Cooley and Heathershaw reveal how business networks, elite bank accounts, overseas courts, third-party brokers, and Western lawyers connect Central Asia’s supposedly isolated leaders with global power centers." (Open Society Foundations)
Trump tweaks trust, can withdraw from businesses without disclosure.After revising his revocable trust, POTUS Donald J. Trump can now draw money from his businesses at any time, without public disclosure. (ProPublica) White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that the President could withdraw funds, "but he declined to say whether Trump would make such withdrawals public." (POLITICO)
This latest shift to what was already a profoundly flawed arrangement brazenly flouts decades of precedent, in which a President held himself to the same ethical standards that Cabinet Secretaries do: disclosure, divestment, and use of a blind trust with an independent overseer.
As we have said since November, so long as President Trump does not divest himself from his complex foreign and domestic business interests, both real and rumored corruption will cast a shadow over his presidency and everything he tries to do in government, whether right or wrong.
- All of Trump's Tweets will be preserved by the White House and the National Archives. "The White House has agreed preserve each of President Donald Trump's tweets, even deleted or amended ones, following the request of the National Archives and Records Administration…" (The Hill)
- House Oversight is investigating Flynn's foreign payments. "Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Monday his committee is looking into payments that former national security adviser Michael Flynn received from foreign governments." (The Hill)
Elsewhere in washington
- NASA aims to thwart FOIA service by requiring individual mailing addresses. "The National Aeronautics Space Administration has begun rejecting public records requests from users of FOIA request-filing service MuckRock, which doesn’t provide what the agency calls a 'personal mailing address,' even though the requirement appears to have no basis under the law." (The Daily Dot)
- Senate, GAO keep eyes on DATA Act implementation. "Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) sent letters to 24 chief financial officer agencies on Friday, urging leadership to" keep DATA Act implementation as a high priority. Agencies face a major DATA Act deadline in early May. (Federal News Radio) We're glad to see the General Accountability Office & Congress overseeing implementation of the DATA Act by The White House and U.S. Department of the Treasury.
- Facing major budget changes, agencies must move beyond Excel spreadsheets. "Spreadsheets are ill equipped to process the myriad functions that exist in the current budget formulation process. Agencies must record, analyze, categorize, control and report thousands of changing budget data points back to stakeholders. This process is far more complex than simply plugging numbers into a table." (Federal Computer Week)
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