Today in OpenGov: Off script


Today's look at open government news includes the firestorm of headlines sparked by President Trump's comments to the New York Times, new research on open data's impact in the developing world, how one reporter boosted accountability in Georgia by opening data on their own, the return of pork-barrel spending in Washington, and much more. 

On the Record

Yesterday, in a wide ranging interview with the New York Times, President Donald Trump

  • said that he wouldn't have appointed Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General if he had known that Sessions would recuse himself from overseeing the Russian investigation
  • accused former FBI Director James Comey of perjury before Congress and of using that infamous dossier as leverage
  • insinuated that special counsel Robert S. Mueller would cross a red line if he looked at Trump's finances beyond their relationship to Russia

The President's frank comments to a paper of record appear to have caught White House staff by surprise. They certainly have our attention.

Elsewhere in trumpland

  • Trump Jr., Manafort, Kushner to appear before Senate next week. "Donald Trump Jr. and Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, were asked to testify July 26 before the Senate Judiciary Committee as the panel expands its scrutiny of potential links between the president’s associates and Russia," according to this report by Steven T. Dennis and Shannon Pettypiece. Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner will meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee behind closed doors two days earlier. (Bloomberg
  • Who pays for counsel as Trump's team lawyers up? Noting that President Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Vice President Mike Pence have all retained outside retained outside counsel, Peter Overby asked "Who is paying for all those lawyers?" (NPR)
  • Reporter breaks White House rules, live-streams audio of briefing. Kesnija Pavlovic, who covers the White House for her news site Pavlovic Today used the Periscope app to stream audio from yesterday's White House press briefing, defying White House restrictions. (Washington Post)
  • CREW seeks visitor logs from Trump's New Jersey golf getaway. Following their recent, successful efforts to secure visitor logs from Mar-a-Lago, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a FOIA request for similar logs that detail the President's meetings at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey. (The Hill)

states and cities

  • This Alabama journalist mapped closed data, boosted accountability. This story in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution about a broken promise on affordable housing has an important sub-part that should not go unnoticed: "an interactive map that informs that public about where housing was funded. That meta story is a reflection of how public access to data about public housing is limited in American communities, and what it takes for a young, determined journalist to use modern technology to inform the public about our own communities." We talked to Stephanie Lamm, the journalist behind the map. (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Chattanooga has a new open data app. "The City Insider application uses data from the Chattanooga Public Library's Open Data Portal and puts it in an interactive map. On the map, users can see the number of crime incidents and non-emergency municipal calls, as well as locations for parks and public schools all over the city." (Government Technology)

washington watch

  • Pork-barrel spending is back according to one watchdog group. A new report by Citizens Against Government Waste identifies more than 160 earmarks worth nearly $7 billion in the 2017 federal budget, despite a declared moratorium on such spending. (Washington Post)
  • The importance of Inspectors General in the federal government. Alan P. Balutis and Don Upson discuss the need for balance between independence and accountability when it comes to the federal government's Inspectors General. They post that "In the minds of many, the envisioned IG independence/accountability balance today is skewed too much in favor of Congress…" engendering suspicion in the executive branch and not serving anyone well. (Federal Computer Week)
  • Proposed bill would open information on federal pensions to FOIA. "The legislation, which is being sponsored by Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis, would make information about pension recipients subject to the federal Freedom of Information Act. The information subject to public review would include the retiree’s name, monthly annuity amount, the retiree’s total contribution to the annuity, total wages earned and retirement date, according to a draft of the bill." ( Our take? This sort of data release should be sure to balance the public interest with the need to protect individual privacy. 
  • Senator Menendez seeks dismissal of his bribery trial citing recent court rulings. "Lawyers for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez are trying again to have political corruption charges against him thrown out, citing a 2016 Supreme Court decision and recent rulings they say narrow the scope of the federal bribery statute." The lawyers cite last week's appeals court ruling that reversed the corruption conviction of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. (Bloomberg)

around the world

  • New report assesses the impact of open data on the developing world. The report, authored by Stefaan Verhulst and Andrew Young aims "to map and assess the current universe of theory and practice related to open data for developing economies, and to suggest a theory of change that can be used for both further practice and analysis." Read the report and learn how open data is changing the world at
  • Lobbyists look to cash in on tension between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. "Washington lobbyists are looking to cash in on the standoff between Qatar and a Saudi Arabia-led bloc of countries as the two sides scramble for influence with Congress and the Trump administration." (POLITICO)
  • Failed military coup leads to a very bad year for Turkish media.  Özgür Ö─čret and Nina Ognianova report that, following last year's failed coup attempt, "Turkey jailed more journalists than any other country had in any year since the Committee to Protect Journalists began keeping records in the early 1990s. The government purged the police, the judiciary, academic, and government institutions. The Turkish news media were hollowed out. More than 100 outlets were closed. Journalists were jailed or pushed into exile to avoid retaliation for their work. Hundreds of media workers were left unemployed…" and more.  (Committee to Protect Journalists)
  • The problem with requiring personal information to file an information request. Ariel Kogan and Fabiano Angelico explain that, "according to the Brazilian Information Access Law, which has been effective for five years this May, the information requesting party – either an individual or an entity – needs to inform the government authority of its name and a document number. This obligation has shown to be problematic, especially for journalists and activists who search for information that might uncover cases of corruption or misappropriation of public resources." (Open Knowledge)

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 20th, 5:00 PM EST. Webinar: The Power of Data Visualization in Cities. The Civic Analytics Network (CAN) will host a webinar, “The Power of Data Visualization in Cities,” Thursday July 20th, from 5pm to 6pm ET. The public webinar will be moderated by Stephen Goldsmith, Director of CAN and the Innovations Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, and the presentation will highlight some of the best data visualization products created by city governments across the country. Learn more here.
  • July 20th – 22nd, The Thursday Network's Un-Hack the Vote 2017 Hackathon, Washington, DC. This hackathon aims to "Inspire young professionals to protect the voting rights of racial minorities…[and push them] to learn about redistricting and gerrymandering and propose data and technology-driven solutions that increase public awareness." Learn more and register to attend 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."
  • July 27th, 6:00 to 9:00 PM: New FOIA tactics and FOIA Karaoke with Michael Ravinsky, in Washington, DC. Join MuckRock and the DC chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists "for a fun, informative talk given by FOIA expert Michael Ravnitzky, followed by a few rounds of FOIA Karaoke…Ravnitzky will be sharing a bunch of new FOIA tactics and research tools – including new ways of thinking about FOIA and strategies for learning about the current administration – that have never before been shared publicly." Learn more and RSVP!
  • August 1st: DKAN Summit in Washington, DC. Part of Drupal GovCon 2017, the DKAN Open Data Summit will feature open data leaders discussing how DKAN can be used to facilitate government open data efforts. Learn more and register here
  • September 11th and 12th: Civic Tech Fest and 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. The agenda is up now and you have until July 21st to sign up for early bird tickets!
  • 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.
  • October 13th – 14th: 2017 FOI Summit, Nashville, Tennessee. "Music City USA becomes home for NFOIC, state FOI coalitions and open government advocates for the 2017 FOI Summit on Friday and Saturday, October 13-14, 2017.The National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) and our host, the Tennessee Coalition for Open Government will convene the annual summit at the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University." You can learn more and register here


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