Today in OpenGov: One of the worst records on open government…


In today's edition, we dig into President Trump's decision to close White House visitor logs, march for tax transparency, ask about Brexit transparency, and more…

closing the white house visitor logs

On Friday, numerous outlets including Time, the Associated Press, and POLITICO reported that the Trump White House would break from precedent set by the Obama administration by keeping its visitor logs secret until 5 years after the end of the administration. 

Sunlight's executive director John Wonderlich responded to the news: "While this action is no surprise for a President whose tax returns remain secret, who has proclaimed the free press the enemy of the American people, and who has refused to fully divest from his businesses, the White House’s failure to disclose visitor logs demonstrates again that American leadership on open government will not come from this Presidency." He also called on Congress to mandate disclosure of the visitor logs.

On our blog, Alex Howard explained the history of visitor log transparency and refuted the White House's arguments for opacity. In the past, we have been critical of the Obama era policy for not being adequate and even "testified to Congress about the flaws of using a security system as a mechanism for public disclosure, including all of the ways the Obama administration evaded accountability, but it is simply incorrect to assert that disclosure was not a meaningful transparency measure."

  • Opposition to the decision emerges across political spectrum. Judicial Watch, a conservative legal watchdog, said that the move "undermines the rule of law" (The Hill) Democratic Senator Tom Udall (NM) spoke in support of congressional intervention. (Roll Call) The non-partisan Project on Government Oversight argued that " It doesn't matter who holds the highest office, there should be transparency and accountability for their actions." (Project on Government Oversight)
  • Transparency groups argue against the move in letter to the White House. Sunlight joined six other transparency organizations in a letter "In a letter to White House Counsel Don McGahn" calling for the decision to be reversed. (Time)

elsewhere in trumpland

  • Tax Day marchers call for Presidential tax transparency. Protesters gathered across the country to call for President Trump to release his tax returns. "Hundreds of protesters marched to Mr. Trump's Mar-a-Lago getaway on Saturday in Florida, and thousands more gathered in Washington and other cities across the country. (New York Times) Sunlight was proud to participate in Washington. As we argued on our Facebook: "Every POTUS should disclose tax returns. If he or she doesn't do so, Congress should mandate more sunshine for the nation's top executive."
  • EPIC sues IRS for failure to disclose Trump's tax returns. "The Electronic Privacy Information Center [EPIC] on Saturday sued the IRS for failing to release President Donald Trump's tax returns…" following a their rejection of a FOIA filed by EPIC in February. (POLITICO)


  • Trump companies made almost $500,000 from Trump campaign entities in the first quarter. "President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign and joint party committees continued to direct funds to his companies in the first quarter of the year, paying close to $500,000 to Trump-owned hotels, golf clubs and restaurants, according to new campaign-finance disclosures." (Wall Street Journal)
  • Trump appointees have potential conflicts, secret ethics waivers. "President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers, and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck…In at least two cases, the appointments may have already led to violations of the administration's own ethics rules. But evaluating if and when such violations have occured has become almost impossible because the Trump administration is secretly issuing waivers to the rules." (New York Times)

around the world

  • Transparency an issue in advance of Brexit talks. "Even though the European Commission and its chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier have spoken about the importance of transparency, the key talks will take place behind closed doors and it is not yet clear how the negotiations will be structured." (POLITICO)
  • Former South Korean president official charged in corruption probe. "South Korea’s former President Park Geun-hye was charged with bribery and abuse of power, setting the stage for a trial that could result in a lengthy prison term." (Bloomberg)

save the dates

  • #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets hereThis one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress.
  • April 25th: TICTeC in Florence, Italy. Hosted by mySociety and "Returning for a third year, the Impacts of Civic Technology Conference focuses on the impact that civic technology and digital democracy are having on citizens, decision makers and governments around the world." Learn more and register to attend here.
  • May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. "Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress." Learn more here.
  • May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. "Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress." Do you know a member of Congress or staffer who deserves to be recognized? You can submit a nomination here!
  • May 19th and 20th: Global Legislative Openness Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. "This 2-day event is hosted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and Open Parliament Initiative in Ukraine. The event will convene leading legislators, government officials, and civil society representatives to consider how legislative openness can strengthen public trust in representative institutions and build a responsive, 21st century legislature. In addition, the conference will explore how parliaments can best leverage the Open Government Partnership's new legislative engagement policy to develop and implement legislative openness plans and commitments." Learn more here. 
  • June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. "The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen." Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.


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