Two years of What Works Cities, HHS saves hundreds of millions of dollars with data, and more…


In today's edition, we look back at the progress made during the first two years of the What Works Cities partnership, examine how HHS is using data to save huge sums, share our concern about the Justice Department's efforts to keep some data closed, and more…

states and cities

  • Two years working towards more open, data driven cities. Sunlight's Stephen Larrick shared our progress on the What Works Cities initiative, two years in. "Over the past two years, Sunlight has made significant headway in helping cities build the public policy infrastructure for data transparency…We’ve supported cities in designing this infrastructure to be responsive to public feedback and ultimately accountable to the public interest. We will expand this support in 2017 and beyond." Read the whole story on the Sunlight blog.
  • Can NYC become a sanctuary city for data privacy? "The New York City government is looking into ways to enforce stricter data privacy laws in the mold of the recently-scrapped FCC rules governing how internet service providers collect, store, and sell user information. The move sets New York City up to become a sanctuary for citizens looking for a little more privacy online." (Civicist)
  • Watchdogs struggle to monitor open records threats at the state level. "In many states in the Union, the only watchdogs are volunteers who monitor bills as side projects and the editors of the local newspapers whose continued operations are under an existential threat." Deirdra Funcheon digs into the problem on the Sunlight Foundation blog
  • A little reporting can go a long way in under-covered areas. As this on investigative reporting in East St. Louis, Illinois shows energetic local reporting is an increasingly rare, but vital resource for small communities around the country. (Columbia Journalism Review)

washington watch

  • Health and Human Services uses data to identify fraud and save huge sums. "With access to petabytes’ worth of data housed within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and newfound analytic tools to delve into it, officials from the Department of Health and Human Services were able to team with the FBI and Justice Department in a $1 billion fraud takedown—the largest in Medicare’s history." (Nextgov)
  • Seattle Times Editorial Board endorses the OPEN Government Data Act. "Who knows what else could be created if nearly all government data were routinely available? Let’s find out by passing the Open Government Data Act." (Seattle Times) We agree and hope that newspapers around the nation join in supporting the bill.
  • ICE should comply with FOIA, release data on immigration enforcement cooperation. Sunlight joined a coalition of more than 50 organizations in signing a letter calling on Immigration and Customs Enforcement "to comply with the legal obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and fully disclose information on immigration enforcement cooperation between federal and non-federal law enforcement agencies." Read the full letter at
  • How governments exploit loopholes to avoid freedom of information. "All of which means that despite specific directives from the former president and attorney general, and transparency efforts in Congress and state legislatures, agencies from the Department of Defense down to the local city clerk's office frequently and increasingly find ways to use the rules in the service of de facto censorship. Given that the U.S. sets the standard for public document availability, that is discouraging and doubtless prevents crucial stories from seeing the light of day." Jason Leopold writes on the Committee to Protect Journalists blog.


  • White House refuses to comply with Oversight's Flynn document request. Earlier this month, the White House refused to comply with a request from the House Oversight and Government Reform committee for documents related to former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. The committee is looking into Flynn's dealings with Russia and its chairman and ranking member appear in agreement that he may have broken the law by failing to disclose certain dealings. (Bloomberg)
  • Watchdogs focus on Trumps ethics and transparency. "Donald Trump won the presidency back in November, but for many liberal organizations, the battle continues. A loose network of lawyers and watchdogs has dug in to scrutinize issues involving the Trump administration's ethics and transparency." (NPR) DC has always needed open government watchdogs to protect and defend transparency accountability and democracy, but the Trump White House is testing the immune systems of our democracy.
  • Justice Department defends removal of animal abuse data. "The Justice Department is mounting a legal defense of one of the most-publicized counter-transparency moves of the new Trump administration: the Agriculture Department's decision to take offline a massive set of records on enforcement of laws against animal abuse." Now, despite previous assertions by the Agriculture Department that they had a legal obligation to do so, DOJ is arguing that the data did not have to be put online in advance of formal FOIA requests. (POLITICO) Our take? This a deeply troubling argument that further extends that anti-transparency record this administration has established in its first 100 days, in this case elevating saving people who abuse animals from public embarrassment and sanction over the public's right to know whether our government is taking action to inspect facilities and enforce violations.
  • Former Obama official says IT modernization likely an "imperative" for Trump. "In a conversation with FedScoop, former Social Security Administration CIO Rob Klopp predicted that the Trump administration probably will elevate IT modernization higher than the Obama administration already did…" while pushing agencies to fund initiatives from their own capital budgets. (FedScoop)
  • The State Department's promotion of Mar-a-Lago drew concern and criticism from ethics watchdogs. As John Wonderlich told NBC News and MSNBC, it doesn't matter that the context for the posts was President Trump's meeting with China's Xi Jinping. "Publishing promotional materials for the President's private business is clearly inappropriate, whether he is using it for official business or not," he said. "There is only one White House. If you're telling the story of Mar-a-Lago, it's the president's private business." (NBC News and MSNBC)

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 26th, 6:00 PM: "Participatory Organizing: From Co-Op to Network to Mass Movement" in Washington, DC. The OpenGov Hub is hosting a co-created workshop on collaborative culture and non-hierarchical organizing. We combine storytelling and participation to learn together about democratic, bottom-up organizing at different scales: from co-ops, to networks, cities and nations. We'll offer some practices and tools that have helped us, and discover the intelligence in the room too. Learn more and register here
  • April 27th, 7:45 AM, DATA Act Breakfast "Spending Data Unleashed", in Washington, DC. "The Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton invite you to a breakfast panel discussion for a front-row seat on the first fruits of the DATA Act. Join us on Thursday, April 27th, at the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Center." Learn more and get your tickets here
  • April 28th, 11:00 AM: Digital Inclusion Asset Mapping, Connect Chicago Meetup in Chicago, Illinois. "At the next Connect Chicago Meetup we will break into working groups to co-build a better shared inventory of public digital inclusion resources and assets." Learn more here
  • May 6th: Sustainable Development Goals Data Archive-a-thon in Washington, DC. The SDG Data Archive-a-thon is an opportunity for programmers, archivists, scientists and volunteers of all kinds to help preserve publicly accessible federal data resources in the public interest. The goal of this event is to archive the datasets used to report on the SDG indicators and to ensure they remain accessible to the public online. This event is hosted by the Center for Open Data Enterprise. Learn more and register to participate 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." Learn more 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.
  • September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. "TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts." The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here
Are you hosting an event that you'd like to see highlighted in this newsletter? Please let us know by sending a quick email to with a brief description and a link to the event page.


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!