Today in OpenGov: It’s actually about ethics in government…


In today's edition, fun with Census data, General Flynn takes the Fifth, a Facebook chat may have broken Florida's sunshine law, and more…

washington watch

Image Credit: Mitchell Shapiro
  • Supreme Court strikes down two North Carolina congressional districts. "The Supreme Court on Monday morning upheld a lower court's decision that two North Carolina congressional districts were improperly created — with an eye to the race of the voters too heavily controlling those districts lines." (BuzzFeed)
  • The Supreme Court also affirmed a ban on "soft money", but Gorsuch confirmed his conservative views on the topic. "The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the so-called soft money ban on state and local parties, prompting opponents of the restriction to turn their pleas for repeal to Congress…Although proponents of political money limits cheered the decision, they said that new Justice Neil Gorsuch’s position on the case confirmed their fears about his campaign finance views." (Roll Call)
  • Census data driving new startups, government experiments. "As the Census Bureau gears up for the 2020 survey, government leadership and tech companies alike are thinking of new ways to present demographic data." Nextgov turned to one startup, MapD, to pull some fun facts from American Community Survey data.  
  • NY Rep. under investigation for biotech stock purchases asks Big Pharma for money. "Two days after news broke that congressional investigators are looking into Rep. Chris Collins' biotech stock purchases, the Clarence Republican sat down with pharmaceutical lobbyists Thursday over lunch at Fiola, a swanky Italian restaurant a half-mile from the Capitol." (The Buffalo News)


  • Flynn invokes Fifth Amendment in refusal to share documents with congressional committee. "Michael Flynn informed the Senate Intelligence Committee Monday that he will not comply with the committee’s subpoena for a list of his communications with Russian officials ahead of last year’s presidential election." (POLITICO)
  • Trump asked top intelligence officials to publicly deny links between his campaign and Russia. They refused. "Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election." (Washington Post)
  • The White House asked the Office of Government Ethics to withdraw its request for copies of secret lobbying waivers. The New York Times obtained the OMB's Director's unprecedented letter to the OGE under a Freedom of Information Act request, not a leak. Thanks to Eric Lipton's reporting, the public now knows more about the White House's opposition to transparency. The White House should disclose each ethics waiver to the public online, not dispute the authority of the OGE to request them.
  • American Oversight is suing the administration for the waivers. "Watchdog group American Oversight is suing the federal government in order to obtain the ethics waivers given to ex-lobbyists who joined the Trump administration." (The Hill

states and cities

Image Credit: Flickr user Predi
  • A Facebook group chat may have violated Florida's sunshine laws. "Facebook conversations about a proposed Lake Okeechobee reservoir appears to violate Florida's sunshine laws because it involved three members of a South Florida Water Management District advisory board, according to the First Amendment Foundation." (Government Technology)
  • Oklahoman editorial board weighs in favor of transparency in state procurement. "At the same time, the idea that one person should ultimately be in charge of such significant financial decisions is an invitation for potential abuse, as has been experienced throughout government at all levels, in all states, for years."  (The Oklahoman via NFOIC)

save the dates

Committee on House Administration
  • May 23 and 24: Datathon for Good in Washington, DC. "The Datathon – which takes place at the Aspen Institute’s Washington, DC headquarters – is a unique collaboration between nonprofit researchers and data scientists to make Form 990 data more accessible and comprehensible to the general public. In addition to Charity Navigator, Nonprofit Open Data Collective participants include Chris Thompson, an independent researcher, as well as representatives from the Aspen Institute, GuideStar, Urban Institute, Syracuse University, Indiana University, and George Washington University." Learn more here
  • June 1: AgileGovCon 2017, online. "A virtual mini-conference dedicated to helping people in all levels of government effectively bring agile practices and culture into their agencies." Learn more and register — for free — 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." Check out the panels and Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.
  • June 12th through 14th: Canadian Open Data Summit in Edmonton, Canada. "The Canadian Open Data Summit (CODS) is an annual event where the most pressing challenges facing the open data and open government communities are addressed on a national scale." Learn more 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.

One last thing's FOIA Predictor created an open source app called FOIA Predictor to estimate the likelihood of a FOIA succeeding.

"Our model has reached 80% test classification accuracy, and the algorithm was trained on more than 9,000 FOIA requests tracked by MuckRock," writes Ian Greenleigh. "Factors include word count, sentence length, specificity, the presence of hyperlinks and email addresses, and the success rates of thousands of government agencies. Anyone interested in helping improve the model’s accuracy and/or the app’s utility to journalists can find the data on and the code on GitHub."

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