Today in OpenGov: It’s still really about ethics in government


Some technical difficulties kept us from releasing roundups on Thursday and Friday of last week, but we're back today with an expanded edition! Former FBI Director James Comey's testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee dominated national headlines all weekend, but there is plenty of other transparency, accountability and anti-corruption news from around the USA and world to share.

Here's just a sample: cities around the United States are using technology to tackle homelessness, the Library of Congress is working on rebuilding its outdated IT systems, the New York Attorney General is looking into Eric Trump's charity, the Open Data Charter has recommendations for using open data in the fight against corruption, and much more.


Image Credit: Brookings Institution
  • Sunlight's Deputy Director Alex Howard reflected on Comey's testimony, calling it an important step towards transparency. He also outlined how Congress, the Judiciary, and the White House should respond. In particular, "the Trump administration, faced with a public denunciation of its mendacity from one of America’s most well respected federal investigators, needs to fundamentally readjust its approach to governing, acknowledging the rights of the public to be informed, the assessments of our intelligence services with respect to what happened in last year’s election, and embracing transparency and accountability regarding who did what and when and last year’s campaign…Without that readjustment, there is little hope of ever moving beyond "the cloud" that hangs over this White House." (Sunlight Foundation Blog)
  • As with the statement Comey entered into the record, we encourage all Americans to read a transcript of his words and watch his testimony prior to reading press accounts or listening to the opinions of pundits on air.  
  • Trump team fights back by hitting Comey as a leaker and threatening a legal complaint. "President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, plans to file a misconduct complaint against James Comey for asking a friend to release the contents of memos documenting Comey's conversations with the president to the press, a source close to Trump's legal team told BuzzFeed News on Friday." (BuzzFeed)
  • House Intelligence Committee asks White House for confirmation of and access to Trump-Comey tapes. "Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee are asking the White House to produce any tapes that might exist of President Donald Trump's conversations with ousted FBI director James Comey." They set a June 23rd deadline for action. (POLITICO)
  • Sessions planning to testify on Tuesday in response to Comey. "In a letter to his former colleagues in the House and Senate, Sessions canceled a planned appearance before Congress' appropriations committees. Sessions said he instead plans to appear on Tuesday before the Intelligence panel to respond to questions stemming from former FBI Director James Comey’s bombshell testimony on Thursday." (POLITICO) Sessions should testify in open session. Among others, the ACLU and Senator Ron Wyden have called for Sessions to testify in an open session. We agree. The road back to public trust is paved with transparency and accountability, not secrecy.  


President Trump. Image Credit: The Tennessee National Guard Public Affairs Office
  • D.C. and Maryland Attorneys General to sue Trump over emoluments issues. "Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland say they will sue President Trump on Monday, alleging that he has violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments since moving into the White House." (Washington Post)
  • Meanwhile, DOJ defends the President by noting that Washington and Jefferson may have sold crops abroad. "Legal consideration aside, the DOJ’s motion is sorely deficient in its use of history. The question isn’t whether James Madison sold crops to a foreign state entity. (We don’t know.) Rather, it’s why the founders bothered to draft the emoluments clause in the first place, and what ideological worldview guided their thinking. The answer isn’t one that the current president or his lawyers would welcome." (POLITICO Magazine)
  • Our take on the President continuing to take payments from foreign governments via his business interests: He shouldn't. 
  • Chairman Grassley pushes back on White House policy of only answering oversight request from Committee Chairman. "The Trump administration's policy of ignoring the oversight requests of Democrats and rank-and-file members has earned it a powerful enemy: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley." (POLITICO) We applaud Chairman Grassley for his response to this toxic policy. 
  • New York Attorney General investigating Eric Trump's charity. "New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is looking into why Eric Trump’s charity paid more than $1 million to use Trump Organization properties for charity events in recent years, after boasting to donors that the family’s assets were being used at no cost." (Bloomberg)
  • Office of Special Counsel knocks White House social media advisor for Hatch Act violation. Responding to a complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington the Office of Special Counsel found that Dan Scavino, the White House Director of Social Media, violated the Hatch Act by targeting Rep. Justin Amash for defeat while invoking his official position at the White House. Read more on out Twitter.
  • Trump announces FBI nominee Christopher Wray on Twitter. "President Donald Trump will nominate Christopher Wray as the next director of the FBI, he announced on Twitter on Wednesday, the day before ousted FBI Director James Comey is to testify at a high-stakes Senate hearing." (POLITICO) Wray may have his own Russia related complications. As we noted on Twitter Avoiding a public appearance of a conflict of interest could lead Trumps nominee for FBI director to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. via USA Today

washington watch

U.S. Supreme Court Building. Image Credit: Joe Ravi
  • The Supreme Court's millionaires. "At least six — and possibly all nine — Supreme Court justices are millionaires, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of new personal financial disclosures released Thursday." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Library of Congress moves to modernize following critical audits, years of poor IT management. "The troublesome findings, in particular, those from GAO, drove the library to hire a permanent chief information officer—something it hadn’t had since 2012—and laid out 30 recommendations to right the legislative branch’s IT ship." (Nextgov)
  • Co-Sponsors of legislation to roll back Wall Street reforms raked in campaign cash from banks. "A MapLight analysis of campaign contributions found the 41 sponsors of the bill received almost three times more money during the 2016 election cycle from commercial banks and holding companies than representatives who are not sponsors of the legislation." (MapLight)
  • Gowdy almost certain to be next Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy was selected by the Republican Steering Committee on Thursday to be the next chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee." The full GOP Conference is expected to vote to confirm the decision on Tuesday. (Roll Call

states and cities

Image Credit: Steven Harris
  • Mayors weigh in on solutions to major urban challenges. The 10 biggest issues facing American cities offer an agenda of goals for urban renewal & collective problem-solving (Fast Company)
  • Six cities fighting homelessness with technology. "Recently, we spoke with more than a half-dozen government officials who are involved with the homeless, and while obstacles and conditions varied among cities, all agreed that their work would be much easier with better tech-based solutions for the problems cited above." (Government Technology)
  • Boosting quality of life with data in North Carolina. "Whether monitoring traffic counts, water and air quality or water lines for leaks, sensors and other evolving technologies are increasingly being used by cities in the Triangle and nationwide to make more informed, real-time decisions." (Government Technology)

around the world

The Open Data Charter's Open Up Guide
  • Fighting global corruption with open data. Robert Palmer of the Open Data Charter shared his organization's new publication, Open Up Guide: Using Open Data to Combat Corruption, on the Sunlight Foundation Blog
  • Improving data collection capacity in non-technical organizations. "Due to the challenge of governments providing open data in Africa, civil society organisations (CSOs) have begun to emerge as alternative data producers. The value these CSOs bring includes familiarity of the local context or specific domain where data may be of benefit.  In some cases, this new role for CSOs serves to provide additional checks and verification for data that is already available, and in others to provide entire sets of data where none exists. CSOs now face the challenge of building their own skills to effectively produce public data that will benefit its users." (Open Knowledge)
  • Reforming the bureaucratic revolving door may prove difficult in France. "Unlike many other other developed countries, France allows bureaucrats to hold political office—multiple offices, in fact—without having to quit the civil service. And they have a guaranteed right to return. Should the bureaucrat-candidate lose an election, there’s a job for life waiting back at the Agriculture Ministry or the Ministry for Overseas Territories. And a pension at retirement." (Bloomberg)
  • Cash is the common denominator in these four global scandals. "What fun is uncovering a ring of corruption if you can’t bust open a Walter White-style storage locker full of bills? Well, if American drama has you let down this season, then feel free to look abroad, where cash is king in several ongoing scandals." (The Atlantic)

save the dates

  • 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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