Today in OpenGov: Trump fires Comey, reverse engineered visitor logs, and more…


In today's edition, we explore the fallout from President Trump's decision to fire FBI director James Comey, continue to celebrate the DATA Act's recent deadline, look at how leaks are playing a role in Brexit strategy, and more…

"you're fired"

Image Credit: Brookings Institution
  • Yesterday, President Trump fired FBI director James Comey. The White House attributed the decision, which came as a surprise to most everyone in Washington, to Comey's handling of the investigation around Hillary Clinton's emails. Many others are tying the move to the FBI's ongoing investigation into Russian interference in last year's election. (Reuters)
  • The dismissal received immediate bipartisan backlash and renewed calls for a special prosecutor for Russia investigation. "Three Senate Republican chairmen with oversight of national security issues signaled Tuesday evening their concern over the sudden termination of FBI Director James Comey in the midst of his agency’s investigation of Russia’s influence over the White House." (The Hill) "Calls to appoint an independent prosecutor have simmered for months, but until now, they had been voiced almost entirely by Democrats…Mr. Comey's firing upended the politics of the investigation, and even Republicans were joining the call for independent inquiries." (New York Times) Further coverage of Comey's dismissal, its relationship with the investigation into the relationship between Trump and Russia, and the ongoing political fallout can be found at Bloomberg and POLITICO
  • Sunlight's take? Trump's decision created new urgency for an independent investigation and special counsel. "The Sunlight Foundation renews our calls for an independent commission in Congress to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. We now call on the Department of Justice to appoint a special prosecutor and to seal Director Comey’s records. Congress must use its powers as a separate, co-equal branch of government to check an executive run amok." Read more on the Sunlight Blog.

washington watch

Image Credit: Eben McCue via POLITICO
  • Reverse engineering White House visitor logs. "To build a better, completely public visitor log, we compiled not just visits to the White House, but interactions that include in-person meetings with the president at Mar-a-Lago and other venues, appearances at events and documented phone calls with foreign leaders and other politicians." (POLITICO)
  • Judicial Watch wants records on Trump travel spending. "A conservative legal and transparency advocacy group on Monday filed suit against the Defense and Homeland Security departments to obtain details on the travel costs incurred by President Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence." (Government Executive)
  • DATA Act deadline marks milestone in six year journey. "Today, for the first time in history, the U.S. federal government’s spending information is one single, unified data set." (Data Coalition) But Congress makes it clear this is only the beginning. "As agencies are wrapping up submissions for the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act’s first deadline, transparency advocates and lawmakers are framing the milestone date more as a starting point." (Federal Computer Week)
  • Census director announces retirement as 2020 count nears critical moment. "John Thompson announced his retirement, effective June 30, as director of the Bureau of the Census. The move comes as the bureau is set to make some big decisions about the 2020 census and deliver a long-awaited cost estimate that could show cost overruns." (Federal Computer Week)
  • Sunlight joins coalition urging Hensarling to rescind letters to agencies on FOIA. "A group of government watchdogs sent a letter to Congressman Jeb Hensarling Tuesday afternoon urging him to rescind the letters he sent government agencies informing them about Freedom of Information guidelines." Read more, including the full text of the letters on Buzzfeed.

around the world

  • European leaders embrace a leaky Brexit strategy. "One woman’s leaky breach of confidence, however, is another man’s transparency in government. And if there is a moral to the story for senior EU officials it is that their first instinct was the correct one: When it comes to Brexit, leak early and leak often and thereby control the narrative." (POLITICO)
  • Research shows citizens want open data, but also more dialogue with government. "The research found a demand not only for data, but also for dialogue between government and citizens to further accountability. While most participants demonstrated their creative and nuanced thinking about using data to further accountability, they also expressed their frustration with local government actors’ lack of response to their efforts." (Open Government Partnership)
  • How the Internet changes democracy through flattened geography. "One universal human trait is to seek out and connect with other people who have shared perspectives or experiences. The internet, because it inherently collapses geography, greatly amplifies people’s ability to make those connections regardless of physical location." (The Atlantic)

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.
  • May 17th: Reboot Congress 2017 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." Yesterday, organizers announced the #PDF17 panelsLearn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here
  • June 27th: Legislative Data and Transparency Conference in Washington, DC. "The Legislative Data and Transparency Conference 2017 (#LDTC17), hosted by the Committee on House Administration, will take place on Tuesday, June 27, 2017in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium. The #LDTC17 brings individuals from Legislative Branch agencies together with data users and transparency advocates to foster a conversation about the use of legislative data – addressing how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future." Learn more here
  • June 29th: DATA Act Summit 2017 in Washington, DC. "The fourth annual DATA Act Summit, hosted by the Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton, will bring together supporters of the open data transformation from across government and the private sector." Learn more 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.


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