Today in OpenGov: Accelerating investigations


This week, Congress returns from its August break and several committees are expected to devote renewed energy to investigations into Russia's involvement in the 2016 election. Read on for more on that story, plus the latest open government news from Washington, around the United States, and across the globe. 


Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Image via NCSU News. 
  • Congressional Russia investigations find a higher gear. "The congressional Russia investigations are entering a new and more serious phase as lawmakers return from the August recess amid fresh revelations about contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia." The House and Senate Intelligence Committees as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee are expected to interview high ranking Trump campaign officials in the coming weeks according to this report from Austin Wright and Ali Watkins. (POLITICO)
  • In unusual move, EPA grants put in hands of political appointee. "The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the unusual step of putting a political operative in charge of vetting the hundreds of millions of dollars in grants the EPA distributes annually, assigning final funding decisions to a former Trump campaign aide with little environmental policy experience." (The Washington Post)
  • What we have here is a failure to disclose. Last week, a lawyer for Donald Trump's "election fraud commission apologized to a federal judge…over the panel's failure to abide by a promise to disclose all relevant records ahead of the group's first meeting last month." (POLITICO

washington watch

Senator Bob Menendez. Image via World Economic Forum. 
  • Help fight illegal fishing using data. A competition on "asks participants to use readily available data to tell where illegal fishing may be happening — all without sending anyone out to sea." The competition is sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and builds off a 2016 effort. The winner stands to take home a $10,000 prize. (FedScoop)
  • Menendez corruption trial gets underway. The Democratic Senator from New Jersey is "facing several charges for his alleged role in a bribery scheme involving one of his close friends." (NPR)

around the world

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is running for a 4th term. Image via Alexander Kurz.
  • Fighting fake news in German elections. Fake news and online misinformation campaigns have not yet hit the German election season. However, "with less than a month before voters head to the polls, the country’s political parties, intelligence agencies and growing number of fact-checking organizations are scouring the depths of the internet for signs of digital misinformation that may sway the election." (POLITICO)
  • Israeli Prime Minister faces mounting corruption scandals. "With a slew of corruption scandals closing in on him, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is dropping what remains of his statesmanlike persona in favor of an angry nationalism that’s popular with his base," reports Aron Heller. The most recent news indicates that Netanyahu's wife is slated to be indicted on fraud charges. (Associated Press)
  • Guatemala's highest court protects top corruption official. Last week, the Constitutional Court of Guatemala declared President Jimmy Morales's attempt to expel the chief of the UN-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala from the country. "Many Guatemalans saw the court's ruling as a step forward in the struggle against corruption, and a reason to celebrate online." (Global Voices)
  • How is India's attempt to curtail corruption by banning large denomination bills working out? Not very well, according to this report by Anirban Nag, who writes that, "nearly 10 months after India’s unprecedented ban on high value notes that was designed to tackle entrenched corruption, bribery continues to oil the wheels of business in Asia’s third-largest economy, according to a U.S. risk management firm that advises foreign investors." (Bloomberg)

save the dates

  • 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 26th: Data Transparency 2017, in Washington, DC. Hosted by the Data Foundation, "Data Transparency 2017 is Washington's largest open data event, bringing together government leaders, transparency advocates, and the technology industry to explore how technology can transform government, compliance, and the private sector." Learn more and get your tickets 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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