Today in OpenGov: Out of regular order


With help from a generous grant by the Rogovy Foundation to support investigative journalism, we are tapping into our distributed networks of communities for stories that will inform the public, inspire reforms and hold our federal government to account. That’s where you come in: please email our deputy director, Alex Howard, with your pitch in the subject line and a paragraph about the story you’d like to tell, including length. We welcome pitches for feature-length stories and shorter articles.

If you're a regular reader of this newsletter you probably know that we'd love it if you dug into President Trump's conflicts of interest, but don't feel restricted to that topic.

Read on for today's curated selection of #OpenGov news from Washington, the United States, and around the world… 

washington watch
  • OPEN Government Data Act could provide boost for "The Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary Government Data Act, or the OPEN Government Data Act, directs federal agencies to share their nonsensitive data sets in a machine-readable format, and it could prompt more to submit their information to, the catalog of data sets maintained by GSA Program Manager Hyon Kim." Kim spoke positively about the Act at an event yesterday. (Nextgov)
  • The Senate's secretive health care procedure is without precedent, but is the result of a long march away from transparency. Julie Rovner writes about "Congress's slow, stuttering retreat from [the] step-by-step transparency" provided by the process known as "regular order". (The Atlantic)
  • Treasury supports killing open data on consumer complaints about financial companies. "The U.S. Department of the Treasury formally recommended that Congress and the White House stop public access to a database that collects consumer complaints about financial companies, tracks responses, and records whether consumers end up satisfied. The Treasury Department said the information should be available only to government authorities." (Bloomberg)
  • New study finds transparency around drone strikes is still severely lacking. "Although in the waning days of his presidency, Obama took some steps to improve transparency about drone strikes, including providing the total estimated death toll, a new report by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies says that the U.S. is still lagging in providing a full accounting of its drone program. Among other failures, the report, titled “Out of the Shadows: Recommendations to Advance Transparency in the Use of Lethal Force,” says that the U.S. has only acknowledged approximately 20 percent of its reported drone strikes — failing to claim responsibility or provide details in the vast majority of cases." (The Intercept)

states and cities

  • Fellows from University of Chicago's Harris School joining Sunlight for the second summer to shine light on what works in cities. As part of a three year agreement the fellows "have been or will be working on the What Works Initiative, working with dozens of cities to improve open data policies, disclosures and positive outcomes from sharing public information with its citizens." (Sunlight Foundation Blog)
  • Experts, governor focus on need for open data and cybersecurity in Missouri. "Commitment to open data and cybersecurity alike must start at the very top, panelists told the more than 330 people who attended Government Technology's Missouri Digital Government Summit on June 13 — a viewpoint that Gov. Eric Greitens affirmed as the event began." (Government Technology)
  • Vermont responds to low marks on State Integrity Investigation with new ethics commission. "Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has signed legislation creating the Green Mountain State’s first-ever ethics commission — a direct response to low grades from the Center for Public Integrity’s State Integrity Investigation." (Center for Public Integrity)


Image via Lawfare Blog
  • Special counsel investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice in Russia probe. "The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said." (Washington Post)
  • OGE raises concerns about "putative retroactivity" in ethics waivers for Bannon, others. "The unsigned, undated waiver could be applied retroactively — essentially allowing staff members who violated an ethics pledge to avoid disciplinary action, wrote Walter Shaub, the director of the federal Office of Government Ethics." (Bloomberg) Read the full letter here
  • Trump to renominate net neutrality champion to fill Democratic FCC seat. "The selection — revealed quietly, late Tuesday night — marks a return to battle for [Jessica] Rosenworcel at the telecom agency: She served in that same role at the FCC from 2012 to 2016, only departing the commission because Senate lawmakers could not extend her term before the clock ran out at the end of the year." (Recode)
  • Blocking the public on social media is unethical or worse for politicians. We recommend reading this Twitter thread by Charles Ornstein and this post on the Lawfare Blog for more details. When it comes to abuse, the "mute" option might be more effective and appropriate.  

around the world

Chart showing arrest rates in Hong Kong since 2005
  • Looking at claims that refugees are driving a crime spike in Hong Kong with data. "Like many societies in recent times, Hong Kong is having a heated discussion about immigration, with regards to refugees especially. A common belief here is that refugees commit more crime than the general population and that most criminals are of South East Asian ethnicity. Further, some have suggested that the increase in refugees has led to a general increase in crime within Hong Kong." However, these assertions aren't backed up by very much public data. (Open Knowledge)
  • Weak legal frameworks turn transparency into a lottery in Spain. "What’s certain is that talking about transparency in Spain is like buying a lottery ticket: the lack of a government transparency policy makes obtaining information feel more playing roulette than exercising a fundamental right." (FreedomInfo)
  • Hungary pushes through new restrictions on NGOs that receive foreign funding. "Lawmakers of Orban’s ruling Fidesz party, which has a comfortable majority in the assembly, pushed through the law on Tuesday to create a special registry for 'foreign-funded organizations.' It affects those receiving more than 7.2 million forint ($26,000) a year from abroad, ordering them to declare their 'foreign' status on their websites and in all press kits and publications." (Bloomberg)

save the dates

The Committee on House Administration
  • 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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