Today in OpenGov: White House officials may have something to Confide


After a long weekend away, we're back with the latest open government news from Washington, around the U.S. and across the globe. 

Last week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive filed a lawsuit against President Trump and the Executive Office of the President arguing that they "appear to be violating the Presidential Records Act (PRA) and the Constitution’s requirement that the president “take care” that the laws be faithfully executed through the White House’s use of confidential messaging applications and other problematic practices including its destruction of the president’s tweets." Read more, including the entire text of the lawsuit, on CREW's website.

washington watch

Image Credit Linnaea Mallette
  • Scott Pruitt wins the Golden Padlock Award. The dubious honor goes to " the most secretive U.S. agency or individual. Pruitt was selected for this honor for steadfastly refusing to provide emails in the public interest and removing information from public websites about key environmental programs." (Investigative Reporters and Editors) Other finalists for the award included Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the entire Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and more.  
  • The House Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously supported public access to Congressional Research Service Reports. (Daniel Schuman) We're thrilled to see Congress taking steps to open publicly funded research.
  • Jury selection begins in Sen. Menendez corruption trial. "Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, is accused of improperly seeking to help Florida doctor Salomon Melgen in a Medicare overb illing case, a contract dispute with the Dominican Republic and with visa applications for three girlfriends. Prosecutors say Menendez accepted nearly $1 million in campaign donations and luxury travel, including a Paris vacation, from Melgen." (Bloomberg)
  • New audit finds 60% of federal websites fail on privacy, security, and consumer protection. The Online Trust Alliance "assessed approximately 1,000 websites for the 2017 Online Trust Audit & Honor Roll report and found that the number of government sites that made the “honor roll” dropped to 39 percent this year from 46 percent in 2016." (Executive Government)


  • The New York Times collected and published "nearly every outright lie" that President Trump has told since taking his oath of office in January. 
  • Trump Organization's Indian partners have history of law enforcement attention. "In two deals signed before Donald Trump was elected president, the company aligned itself with Indian partners who were already attracting the attention of law enforcement authorities. One, called IREO, is under investigation by India’s Enforcement Directorate over the source of its funding, suspected violations in its land purchasing and the possibility of money laundering. The other, M3M India, has been the target of sweeping tax raids; on a different project, the company was recently accused in a criminal complaint of bribing officials to clear-cut land." (Washington Post)
  • Recent Trump appointee is a registered lobbyist for Saudi Arabia. Richard Hohlt, who was recently appointed to the President's Commission on White House Fellowships "is a registered agent of Saudi Arabia earning hundreds of thousands of dollars to lobby on the kingdom’s behalf, according to U.S. Department of Justice records reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity." (The Center for Public Integrity)
  • Leakers at increased risk under Obama and Trump administrations. "But since 2009, the federal government has grown increasingly hostile toward leakers and news organizations that have published classified information. As The New York Times noted in its coverage of  [Reality] Winner, President Trump, 'like his predecessor Barack Obama, has signaled a willingness to pursue and prosecute government leakers.'" (The Conversation) Meanwhile, over-classification runs rampant. "Part of the reason government secrets have ballooned is that government employees are incentivized to classify records—a decision to keep information unclassified can come back to haunt an employee but not so the reverse. The system is irrational and confusing because the same documents that are classified in one file are not always classified in another. Even a document available on the internet can be classified as 'top secret,' yet courts have refused to acknowledge the discrepancy in how documents are treated as a defense when people are charged with leaking classified information." (America, The Jesuit Review)

states and cities

  • Bakersfield, California shares interactive street condition data. "The Bakersfield Public Works Department has unveiled its city street conditions data online at the request of Ward 4 City Councilman Bob Smith. Go to the interactive map and a colorful array of green, yellow, orange and red lines wiggle across your computer screen, telling you in how good or bad of shape experts think individual roads are. You can type in a street name to zero in on its condition." (Government Technology)
  • Engaging government staff as a civic tech volunteer. Jesse Birosack, a product manager with the City of Boston, shared some good advice for people who want to work with local public officials to improve their governments. 
  • New Jersey Supreme Court rules that electronic records are public records. "In what one lawyer called a 'very significant' decision, the court unanimously held that the state’s 16-year-old Open Public Records Act, which guarantees people the right to most government records, covers requests for information taken from emails, provided releasing it would not intrude on privacy rights or run afoul of any of the other 30 or so exemptions in the law. The court’s ruling reversed an appellate decision that had, for a time, made it harder to get such information, said John Paff, a well-known public records advocate who was the plaintiff in the case." (NJ Spotlight)

around the world

Russian President Vladimir Putin
  • European countries ramp up long running efforts to counter Russian misinformation. Across Europe, "countries are deploying a variety of bold tactics and tools to expose Russian attempts to sway voters and weaken European unity," write Dana Priest and Michael Birnbaum in the Washington Post.
  • Open data portal will bring unprecedented access to Denmark's energy data. "A revolutionary new online portal, which gives open access to Denmark’s energy data, is set to spark innovation in smart, data-led solutions for energy efficiency. The Energy Data Service, launched on 17 June 2017 by the CEO of Denmark’s state-owned gas and electricity provider Energinet, and the Minister for Energy, Utilities and Climate, will share near real-time aggregated energy consumption data for all Danish municipalities, as well data on CO2emissions, energy production and the electricity market." (Open Knowledge)
  • Help research the EU's efforts to open up. " If you know of interesting initiatives within the EU institutions, or know people who would be interesting to talk to about their work within the EU institutions then please get in touch. Drop Mat an email on with a few sentences outlining the initiatives or people that you know about." (Demsoc)

save the dates

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 27th: Boosting Government Efficiency in Washington, DC. At this event, hosted by Nextgov, "we’ll explore how agencies are using emerging technologies, advanced analytics, and big data to nurture practical innovation and deliver results.  Join us to hear best practices and case studies from the government leaders at the forefront of improving government performance." 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 5th, 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:"
  • July 19th, 5:30 PM EST. Book Discussion: When Your Job Wants You To Lie in Washington, DC. "Join us for a discussion that will help us deal with the kinds of situations we all encounter. Presented by the American Society for Public Administration, National Capital Area Chapter (ASPA NCAC). Refreshments start 5:30, and the discussion starts 6:00. Space is limited, so you must RSVP in advance." Learn more and RSVP here
  • July 27th, 10 am: Chief FOIA Officers Council Meeting in Washington, DC. "OGIS and the Department of Information Policy (OIP) at the Department of Justice are happy to announce that the next meeting of the Chief FOIA Officers Council will be held on Thursday, July 27th from 10 am to noon. You can register to join the audience in the William G. McGowan Theater beginning on July 26. You can also plan on watching the livestream via the National Archives’ YouTube Channel."
  • 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.
  • September 13th: Civic and Gov Tech Showcase in San Jose, California. "Innovate Your State, in partnership with Microsoft and the City of San Jose, is bringing the 3nd Annual Civic & Gov Tech Showcase to the Capitol of Silicon Valley. The Civic & Gov Tech Showcase is an opportunity to connect with civic minded entrepreneurs, potential investors, and government leaders to showcase the great work that is being done to improve government and governance. The goal of the event is to encourage collaboration and the support of new technologies to improve government and public participation." Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • September 14th – 16th: Digital Humanities and Data Journalism Symposium, in Miami, Florida. "Digital humanists and data journalists face common challenges, opportunities, and goals, such as how to communicate effectively with the public. They use similar software tools, programming languages, and techniques, and they can learn from each other. Join us for lectures and tutorials about shared data types, visualization methods, and data communication — including text visualization, network diagrams, maps, databases and data wrangling. In addition to the scheduled content, there will be opportunities for casual conversation and networking." Learn more and register here.


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