Today in OpenGov: One lobbyist’s Mega Millions jackpot


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Read on for today's roundup of open government news including the latest on President Trump's war with the media, top tips to win your FOIA appeal, evidence based approaches to fighting the opioid epidemic, and much more. 


  • Florida lobbyist follows Trump to Washington, has no problem finding millions worth of work. "In just five months, Ballard Partners’ federal lobbying operation has generated nearly $4 million in current and contracted business from foreign and domestic lobbying clients, according to a Center for Public Integrity review of lobbying records filed with the U.S. Congress and Department of Justice. That’s as much lobbying money as some established firms make in a year." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Mueller team draws scrutiny for political giving, former client lists. "At least seven of the 15 lawyers Mueller has brought on to the special counsel team have donated to Democratic political candidates, five of them to Hillary Clinton — a fact that President Trump and his allies have eagerly highlighted. These critics also point to some of the lawyers’ history working with clients connected to the Clintons and Mueller’s long history with former FBI director  James B. Comey as they question whether those assigned to the investigation can be impartial." (Washington Post)
  • Member of "voter fraud" commission cautioned warned against private data requests. "If the panel wanted election officials across the country to provide it with voter information, it had to be delicate about how it worded the request or else it would be seen as demanding highly sensitive voter details." Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap made the argument. It appears that the letter sent to states by Kris Kobach, the commission's vice chair, heeded the advice by specifically requesting publicly available data. (HuffPost)
  • What's wrong with the media's response to attacks by President Trump? "For reporters, it feels demoralizing to be attacked repeatedly by the president of the United States; some feel physically threatened. But the best way to respond to this is to make a stronger case to the American people as to why Trump’s attacks are unacceptable, rather than expecting it to be self-evident, or hoping that pity and sympathy will elicit public support. Rather than explaining why the president attacking the media is bad for the media, the media need to appeal to the public’s self-interest and explain why it’s bad for them." (The Atlantic)

washington watch

Image: Journal Sentinel Files
  • The ongoing fight for freedom of information. This Independence Day editorial from the Des Moines Register is no less relevant later in the week, or any day of the year. 
  • House and Senate show concern about Census leadership, budget. "Congressional watchdogs from both sides of the aisle are concerned about finances at the Census Bureau and want to see an updated cost estimate to reflect potential cost overruns." They are also pushing for quick appointment of permanent leadership. (Federal Computer Week)
  • Top tips to win your FOIA appeal, direct from agency documents? "In the Independence Day spirit of civic engagement and disobedience, we took a look through some of the appeals to the SEC and pulled examples of successful pushback. Need a guide to crafting your own response to some common denials from the SEC or other agencies holding back your documents? Here’s your quick how-to in the words of those winning requesters themselves." (MuckRock)
  • SBA launches new map to help modernize contracting and encourage small business participation. The agency "has unveiled a new map of historically under-utilized business zones as part of an effort to modernize the agency’s federal contracting programs. SBA said June 28 the map is designed to help small businesses determine if they are eligible to participate in the HUBZone program." (Executive Gov)

states and cities

The SBA's HUBZone Map
  • Limits on DC government email searches weakened. "The D.C. Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) had been warning they would only process search requests naming every possible recipient." But, the DC Office of Open Government disagreed in an advisory opinion explaining that merely naming the sender or recipient as well as a date range should be enough to spark a search. (D.C. Open Government Coalition)  
  • Finding evidence based approaches to fighting the opioid epidemic. "Seizing the opportunity the Cures Act provides will require governors, legislators, public-health leaders, service providers, federal officials and foundation executives who understand and champion the value of learning strategies. Using tiered-evidence grants to allocate funding to local providers would take more work on the front end but would pay big dividends over time." (Governing)

save the dates

  • July 10th through 24th: e-Forum Discussion on the Agriculture Open Data Package, virtual. "The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Global Open Data on Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) are inviting interested individuals to participate in this forum discussion on 'Agriculture Open Data Package' to be held on the e-Agriculture Platform. The initial target audience for this forum are policy-makers, researchers, open data experts, and/or agricultural experts – however, any one interested is invited to attend." Learn more about the forum and how to participate 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.
  • September 28th: Powering Sustainable Development with Access to Information, Paris, France. "The 'IPDCtalks' will be held to highlight and elaborate on the importance of Access to Information for all sustainable development efforts around the world. It will consist of a series of attractive and dynamic talks from global public leaders, top journalists, young intellectuals and community leaders. While some of the speakers will elaborate on the key role of Access to Information for the achievement of a particular Sustainable Development Goal, others will reflect on the essential role of Access to Information for our society and future." You can learn more and request an invitation on the event website. If you're interested, but can't attend the event will be broadcast live on the web.   


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