Today in OpenGov: The real price of congressional power, Tempe embraces open data, the USDA fights FOIA…


In today's edition, we explore Tempe, Arizona's new open data portal, the USDA keeps changing its tune about some open data that it chose to close, things don't look so good for "political opposition" in Kazakhstan, and more…

states and cities

Tempe, Arizona's open data portal
  • Explore Tempe, Arizona's new open data portal. "From the condition of street pavements to emergency response times, people can now find in-depth information about Tempe through a new open data portal. By posting more details on the city’s website, officials hope to spark more community involvement and commercial activity." (KJZZ)
  • A pessimistic outlook for one of Texas' foremost open government champions. "But over the past several years, Wood said, he’s seen a shift in attitude in the interpretation of the state's 'sunshine laws,' from the stated policy that all government records were considered to be public to one of push back at all levels of government where records are held secret unless the state attorney general’s office rules otherwise." (El Paso Times)

washington watch

Issue One report, The Price of Power
  • Want to head up a congressional committee? Be prepared to pay for it. A new report "called “The Price of Power” details how the chairs and ranking members of the most influential committees in the U.S. House of Representatives are increasingly being pressured by party leadership to funnel significant portions of the funds they raise back to the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) under the current “party dues” system." (Issue One)
  • USDA violates the spirit of FOIA — and probably its meaning — as it doubles down on efforts to shield previously open records. "Now, in an attempt to persuade a court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by myself and others challenging the blackout, the USDA has brazenly asserted that it was never under any legal duty to post the records — this despite the clear statutory mandate that agencies proactively post frequently requested records, the agency’s acknowledgement that the records at issue were the single-most frequently requested, and even its prior recognition that it was legally required to post the records." (Salon)
  • Meanwhile, the number of FOIA lawsuits being filed against the government hit a record high. "The number of lawsuits filed against the federal government over access to records is at an all-time high, according to a report released [last week] by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a federal information research center at Syracuse University." (The Center for Investigative Reporting)
  • Documents reveal how counter terrorism tactics were used against protestors at Standing Rock. "The documents provide the first detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor helping to execute the global war on terror, worked at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project." (The Intercept)
  • Jared Kushner's business connections, role in Saudi arms deal cause for concern.  Last week, "when Saudi Arabia announced last week a $20-billion investment in a U.S. infrastructure fund managed by Blackstone Group LP, many noticed that it came shortly after presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner personally negotiated a $110-billion arms sale to the country. What went unnoticed — and is largely unknown — is how important Blackstone is to the Kushner family company." Kushner has divested himself from some of his business interests and pledged to recuse himself when appropriate, "but the sequence of the deals and the intertwined personal relationships of the principals raise concerns about conflicts of interest." (Bloomberg News)
  • Why the secrecy around Trump's desire for a Russia backchannel? It's a symptom of the Trump administration's broader approach to transparency.

around the world

The European Parliament
  • European Parliament should vote for corporate tax transparency. "On 30th May 2017, members of the European Parliament have the chance to vote in favour of amendments aimed at forcing Europe’s largest multinational corporations to be more transparent about the tax they pay and their operations in different countries. This would be achieved by getting the companies to release public country-by-country reporting." (Open Knowledge)
  • Kazakhstan looks to further limit political opposition with new bill banning independent presidential candidates. "Political opposition never got much of a look in in authoritarian Kazakhstan, where the same man has been in power for over a quarter of a century, but a draft law being considered by the country's rubber stamp parliament is set to make matters even more predictable." (Global Voices)
  • The Australian government is developing metrics on FOI access rights. "The Australian Government and the states and territories collect data and produce statistics about applications to access government information. But the data isn’t uniform across jurisdictions, making it difficult to compare and analyse how the Australia-wide use of information access rights. In addition, the statistics aren’t always consistent with international measurements of open government." (OpenGovAsia)

save the dates

The Data Coalition
  • 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.


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