Today in OpenGov: The president’s tweets and ethics in government…


In today's edition, we reflect on the president's Twitter habit, a retired senator works to improve congressional oversight, Minnesota reaches a transparency turning point, and more…


Envisioning how a presidential seal could be used to verify a Tweet written by the President.
  • Reflecting on Trump, Twitter and transparency. Alex Howard took to the Sunlight Foundation blog to discuss the president's Twitter use and its implications for transparency and public trust. "As with any tweet by @POTUS, the public should be able to know who wrote a @realDonaldTrump tweet. Someday, perhaps Twitter or Facebook will work with a White House to show tweets or updates written by a president differently, adding a Verified layer that acts as a watermark or a simple annotation in the meta data that changes how the text is displayed." 
  • Meanwhile, Twitter users blocked by Trump are threatening to sue. On Tuesday, the Knight First Amendment Institute "a nonprofit organization affiliated with Columbia University, said it believes his account is a 'designated public forum' and threatened legal action if the president didn’t comply. In a letter addressed to Trump, his counsel, press secretary and social media director, the institute wrote on behalf of Holly O’Reilly and Joseph M. Papp, both of whom criticized the president on the social media platform in recent weeks and said they were blocked." (Bloomberg)
  • Secrecy around waivers underlines systemic weakness in ethics rules. "It is difficult to fully assess how President Trump’s ethics pledge is working in practice without more information on the political appointees. In part, that’s due to the design of his ethics pledge. But the reliance on self-reporting by individuals, vague definitions, lack of transparency, and no general requirement for written recusals are systemic problems that transcend the Trump administration that should be addressed immediately." (Project on Government Oversight)
  • OGE won't investigate emoluments issue, citing lack of jurisdiction. "In a letter Monday, U.S. Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub told Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that his office lacks jurisdiction to examine whether benefits Trump gets from federal government dealings with his private businesses run afoul of the domestic emoluments clause in the Constitution." (POLITICO)
  • Trump sons continue to blur the lines between ethics and politics. "Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s adult sons who took over the Trump Organization as their father took control of the White House, hit the morning show circuit this week to promote Trump Hotels’ newest line: a budget-friendly chain inspired by the sons’ time on the campaign trail with their father…But they often sounded more like surrogates for the White House." (POLITICO)
  • How Eric Trump's "charity" golf tournament regularly benefited the Trump organization. Particularly worrisome is a report that "the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which has come under previous scrutiny for self-dealing and advancing the interests of its namesake rather than those of charity, apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization." (Forbes)

washington watch

Image Credit: Kate Ter Haar
  • Leak arrest is a cause for concern among journalists. "But the arrest of Reality Leigh Winner, an intelligence contractor accused of leaking a classified report about Russian meddling in the 2016 election, has raised concerns about the measures taken by news organizations to protect confidential informers, with some reporters worrying about a chilling effect on potential sources." (New York Times)
  • Working with whistleblowers in the digital age. "In particular, sources who want to make an anonymous disclosure of information should avoid making contact via government phones, email, or computers. In this age it is difficult to transfer information electronically without leaving a footprint that could be tracked in a leak investigation. Journalists must also consider how their methods to verify information with others might inadvertently expose a source to retaliation or prosecution, and how posting primary documents—even after scanning—may still leave detectable information that will quickly identify a source." (Project on Government Oversight)
  • This Senator's retirement project is to improve congressional oversight. "More than 100 congressional staffers have now completed boot camps designed to boost the investigative skills of House and Senate staff, thanks in part to the retirement work of former Sen. Carl Levin." The two day trainings are led by bipartisan instructors with deep oversight experience. (Roll Call)
  • State Department looking outside government for innovation inspiration. "The State Department’s Office of Global Partnerships is gathering information, strategies and ideas from all areas of the private sector to facilitate innovation and modernization in diplomacy, according to a request for information filed in May." (FedScoop)

states and cities

The Lost Angeles Index of Displacement Pressure. Image via Data-Smart City Solutions
  • Searching for a more transparent budget process in Minnesota — and around the country. "It’s a familiar story that’s spanned decades and power shifts in St. Paul —and one that once again leaves lingering questions for legislators and the public. If moving up deadlines didn’t make the process more transparent, what will do the trick? Given the entrenched interests involved and the nature of the political process in Minnesota, can anything be done at all?" Alex Howard weighed in on the benefits of technology saying "It could be something as simple as a spreadsheet or something as complex as a living budget document…We have a representative democracy and it’s appropriate to see how we are being represented. Obviously we have a recourse in the ballot box, but the great promise of technology advancements is that citizenship isn’t something you just exercise on Election Day; you can exercise it every day.” (Minn Post) One thing is clear. When it comes to making state governments more transparent with modern technology, we're just at the end of the beginning.
  • Leveraging maps to understand gentrification and fight inequality. "The first step in addressing gentrification is understanding where it has happened and where it is likely to happen in the future. A number of cities have found mapping to be a powerful tool for observing gentrification trends, allowing them to intervene before low-income residents are seriously affected." (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • Reigning in public records exemptions in Oregon. "Before [the legislative session ends in July], lawmakers owe Oregonians the successful passage of House Bill 2101 that would provide a process to review, and hopefully rein in, the ever-growing list of exemptions that help special interest groups and governmental agencies keep certain public documents private." (The Oregonian)

save the dates

What to expect at #PDF17
  • 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 12th through 14th: Amazon Web Services Public Sector Summit in Washington, DC. "We are bringing government, education, and nonprofit technology leaders from around the world to Washington, D.C this June 12-14, 2017 for the eighth annual AWS Public Sector Summit. Spend three, action-packed days with the innovators who are changing the world with cloud computing. You’ll go home with new strategies and techniques to accomplish new projects, maximize budgets, and achieve your mission that you didn’t think possible." Learn more and register here.
  • June 14th, 11am EST: Using EITI to Disclose Social and Environmental Information Related to Extractive Activities, Webinar. The OGP Openness in Natural Resources Working Group is hosting this webinar aimed "at stakeholders, including representatives from government, civil society, and the private sector, who work on, or are interested in, transparency around socio-environmental information related to the oil, gas and mining sector. It will include a discussion on current trends, opportunities, and challenges regarding socio-environmental transparency and whether/how EITI can be a tool to disclose such information." RSVP 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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