Today in OpenGov: Scaramucci will not do the full fandango


In today’s edition, we ask about open data’s impact on Canadian cities, follow the White House’s  communications shakeup, share news of rising spending on lobbying in Washington, keep our eye on the latest in Poland’s judicial crisis, and much more.

Opening cities

[Edmonton, Alberta was the first Canadian City to adopt the Open Data Charter. Image: Jeff Wallace.]

On the Sunlight blog, guest authors Jean-Noé Landry and Merlin Chatwin explained a partnership between the Open Data Charter and Open North that will result in a research report exploring “the benefits and challenges facing governments designing and implementing open data approaches.”

The research will focus on Canadian cities and will explore topics and questions including:

  • What motivates cities to invest in open data initiatives?
  • What are their successes and challenges in implementing open data initiatives and moving from data publication to improving public service?
  • What do municipal governments need in terms of support and resources for opening data?
  • How has the Open Data Charter featured in their efforts?

Interested in learning more about the project? Get in touch at

“Full transparency”

  • Communications shake up at the White House. On Friday morning, President Trump named Anthony Scaramucci as his new communications director. During his introductory press conference, Scaramucci stressed his intention to create a more positive atmosphere with the press. Today, he issued a statement on Twitter that “the TV cameras are back on,” presumably referring to press briefings being on-camera again.  (The Hill)
  • In a statement subsequently posted on Twitter, Scaramucci said that he was deleting old tweets and was being transparent about it. His tweets over the past five years have included political positions contrary to those of the Trump administration and criticism of the president.  Let’s be frank: new White House communications director is being transparent is announcing the deletions, but removing his past public statements as a private citizen from public view is not exactly embracing transparency or accountability at the outset of his tenure as a public servant. [Miami Herald]
  • White House press secretary Sean Spicer tendered his resignation shortly after the Friday morning meeting with the President. [Politico]
  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be the new White House press secretary. In her remarks following Scaramucci’s introductions, she once again said the press shop will be as open, honest, and transparent as humanly possible, echoing her earlier remarks. That hasn’t been their open government record to date. [Newsweek]
  • Trump names temporary head of Office of Government Ethics. The President promoted David Apol, who had previously served for several years as the OGE’s general counsel, to serve as acting head of the ethics office. The OGE’s former director ,Walter Shaub, criticized the decision to not nominate a full time successor. “It’s unfortunate that the White House decided to play politics with the interim director role,” he said. “If they have someone they like, they should formally nominate that person to be permanent director.” (POLITICO)
  • Reports suggest Sessions talked about the Trump campaign with the Russian ambassador. “Russia’s ambassador to Washington told his superiors in Moscow that he discussed campaign-related matters, including policy issues important to Moscow, with Jeff Sessions during the 2016 presidential race, contrary to public assertions by the embattled attorney general, according to current and former U.S. officials.” (The Washington Post)
  • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump keep amending their financial disclosures. Last week, the President’s son-in-law filed an amended financial disclosure adding at least $10 million to his previous tally. Meanwhile Ivanka Trump shared her own documents, showing at least $13.5 million worth of income from 2016 until she joined her father’s White House staff. (Bloomberg)
  • Looking to research Trump and his administration using FOIA? Muckrock can help. In this post, they share ways to use the Freedom of Information Act, “whether you’re just getting started with public records or are a seasoned document hunter.”

washington watch

  • Lobbying revenues rise in Washington. “Most of Washington’s top lobbying firms saw their revenue rise in the second quarter, after fears among some corporations and lobbyists — and hopes among some Trump supporters — that the president’s election in 2016 would curb Washington’s influence industry.” (POLITICO)
  • Uncertainty about the Trump administration’s policies is driving lobbying investments, including tech. “There’s a lot of open questions in terms of where the administration will come down on issues of great interest to these companies, which naturally would drive them to spend money on people who can have impact on their thinking or policy decisions,”  Alexander Howard, deputy director of the Sunlight Foundation, told Stephen Overly. [Politico]
  • The feds should make it easier for technologists to be public servants. Daniel Castro highlighted how retention and recruiting are significant problems for reinventing and reforming government with better information technology. [Center for Data Innovation]
  • Yes, new technology is important, but governments need to maintain digital infrastructure until modernization is in place. That’s one takeaway from an op-ed by professors Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, who want to shift the focus from “innovation” to maintenance. It’s a worthy argument — call it the “fixer movement” — but we’re not convinced setting up an Office of American Maintenance would be an easy sell at the White House. [New York Times]
  • Fighting for FOIA, no matter who is in charge. Michelle Cottle looks at efforts to ensure the Freedom of Information Act remains strong and effective through the prism of a conservative group’s (the Cause of Action Institute) fight to obtain information from the Republican controlled Justice Department about their communications with the Republican controlled House Financial Services Committee.Her take away? “Those in power dislike the public nosing around in their business and are forever looking to shield themselves from scrutiny. But when that happens, the public needs to push back. Hard. No matter which team is in charge. And no matter how unsexy the details of the battle may be.” (The Atlantic)
  • GAO, new law focus on data and analytics to fight fraud. Ben Berliner details the GAO’s Framework for Managing Fraud Risks in Federal Programs, explaining that it “encourages program managers to actively use analytics as a key tool in securing their finances. [Further] the Fraud Reduction and Data Analytics Act, which has been law for over a year, seeks to codify the standards laid out by the framework.” (Federal Computer Week)
  • After a federal ban, the USGSA should be much more transparent with the public and local governments about the risk of using Kaspersky software.“People need to know that they can trust software updates,”  Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology,  to ld the Post. “We need more public information.” [Washington Post]

around the world

[Polish President Andrzej Duda. Image: European Parliament.]
  • Polish President unexpectedly vetoes controversial bills to overhaul judiciary. After tens of thousands took the the streets in protest, Polish President Andrzej Duda moved to veto controversial court-reform legislation passed by the ruling party which backed his presidency. ““Poland’s legal system does need a thorough reorganization, but above all it needs to provide a sense of security,” Duda said, in a televised statement, “And no change of the legal system should open a divide between society and the state. I needed to make this decision immediately as the proposed changes caused huge emotions.”  (Bloomberg)
  • Russian parliament pushes Internet censorship bills forward. Last week, during a packed session, the lower house of Russia’s parliament “approved a spate of censorship laws today, voting for legislation that will prohibit messaging services from allowing users to communicate anonymously, outlaw the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), proxies, and other anonymizers, and require search engines to hide links to blocked sites.” (Global Voices)
  • Here’s 6 ways for citizens to assert power beyond the balance box. “Changing government is never easy, but it’s also not as hard as it once used to be,” writes Paul Maassen, director of civil society engagement at the Open Goverment Partnership support unit. “By opening up government for citizen participation substantial improvements are being made in the lives of ordinary people. And, just like at the ballot box, every voice counts.”

save the dates

  • 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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