Today in OpenGov: Open Sessions


As the first summer heat wave stifles DC, the eyes of official Washington turn to the Senate, where U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify in an open hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 2:30 PM. Read on for our take on that and much, much more in this edition of #Today in OpenGov.

washington watch

  • Gianforte won't serve time for assault on journalist. "Montana Republican Rep.-elect Greg Gianforte will serve no jail time for his assault of a journalist but will do community service and undergo anger management counseling." (Roll Call)
  • Senate Republicans not planning to publicly release their healthcare bill. "We aren't stupid," said one aide consulted by Axios. Senate leadership plans to send the bill directly to the CBO for scoring and is hoping for a vote before the July 4th recess. Our take? A legislative proposal that will reform 1/6th of the U.S. economy should be disclosed to the public online, marked up, and debated.
  • In a setback for public transparency and accountability, the VA is no longer updating performance database.  "The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has stopped updating a performance database that charts error rates at local offices — a system vets advocates say was a useful tool to hold the agency accountable, including at the Boston office." (Government Technology)
  • Sunlight joined a broad coalition of organizations — including the ACLU, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Liberty Coalition, Demand Progress, and more — in calling for the Director of the Office of National Intelligence to be more transparent about how many Americans are surveilled under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Read the letter here
  • A reorganization at the GSA is raising questions about how 18F will function under with White House Office of American Innovation. "The General Services Administration announced Wednesday its tech wing—the Technology Transformation Service—will move into the Federal Acquisition Service in an effort to work better with the White House." (Nextgov)


Jeff Sessions at his confirmation hearing. Image Credit: Office of the President Elect
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions to testify today in public hearing on Russia. After some concern that the hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee would be closed it was confirmed yesterday that an open session would be held today at 2:30 pm EST. (NBC News) Our take? It's important for the public to be informed about the Attorney General's actions before and after he took up his current post. 
  • COVFEFE Act would ensure that presidential tweets remain official records. "Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., introduced Monday the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement Act that would amend the Presidential Records Act to archive posts made on the president’s personal social media accounts. The COVFEFE Act, then, contains language that would have archived for future generations Trump’s deleted covfefe tweet." (Nextgov) Our take? While the National Archives has issued clear guidance to this effect, it is useful to codify the status of presidential social media use into law. 
  • White House refuses to comment on potential existence of Comey tapes… "The White House refused to say Monday when President Trump would announce whether he recorded his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey." (The Hill) …While the Secret Service stated that it has no "tapes" of Oval Office conversations. Documents obtained via FOIA confirm that the Secret Service has no audio or transcripts made inside the White House. (Wall Street Journal) As we pointed out on Twitter, that doesn't mean no tapes exist.
  • Trump allies float possibility of Mueller dismissal. "A friend of President Trump said Monday that Trump is considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the FBI investigation into potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russia." (The Hill)
  • Inspectors General among first casualties in Trump's war on oversight. "But Comey is far from the only watchdog Trump has tried to silence. Since the day the president took office, he has quietly been waging war on inspectors general—the federal officials charged with ferreting out government waste, fraud, corruption, and mismanagement." Our Executive Director John Wonderlich weighed in, noting that "the Trump administration has created an environment that demonstrates that they don’t really care about ethics…. And as we all know from experience, this is the kind of environment where waste and corruption flourish." (The New Republic) You can track the status of vacant Inspector General positions — some of which date back well into the Obama Administration — on the Project on Government Oversight's IG Vacancy Tracker.

around the world

Operation Serenata de Amor
  • Brazilian President avoids campaign finance charges. "Brazil’s embattled President Michel Temer scored a breakthrough in his struggle to cling to power as Brazil’s top electoral court acquitted him of illegal campaign financing charges." (Bloomberg)
  • Fighting corruption with data science and social media in Brazil. "A group of 10 data scientists has been using artificial intelligence to monitor public spending and publish suspicious activity on Twitter." (Vice Impact)
  • Kremlin critic Navalny jailed for 30 days. "A Moscow court found Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny guilty of organizing illegal protests and sentenced him to 30 days’ detention late Monday." Reports indicate that over 1,000 demonstrators were arrested during protests on Monday. (POLITICO)
  • Open data must be about people, not simply innovation. "But really, open data is about people, their problems, and giving them the power to solve them," writes Ana Brandusescu at SciDevNet.

save the dates

Civic Tech Fest Taipei
  • 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 28th, 10am EST: How Can Demand Driven & Bottom Up Social Accountability Tools Improve Health Services? The Experience of Rural Mozambique, Webinar. "This webinar explores how Concern Universal has managed to find the intersections in incentives and goals between government and rural communities while helping overcome some crucial gaps in health service delivery. It focuses on lessons learned through application of collaborative government/citizen’s approach. More information 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.
  • July 5, 10am EST: ICT-mediated Citizen Engagement: Voice or Chatter? Webinar. "In this webinar, IT for Change will present the results of eight empirical case studies of citizen engagement through ICTs they undertook. This research, funded by Making All Voices Count, explored in each case how new forms of participation were shaped by IT, how IT affected power relations between government and citizens, and how the interactions between different actors continuously shape governance. More information 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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