Today in OpenGov: Bills, bills, bills


In today's roundup of open government news, we celebrate the official launch of our Guide to Tactical Data Engagement, President Trump gets some help with his legal bills, the HHS Secretary enjoys pricey flights, and much more. 

tactical data engagement

So your city is working to make data open. Now, how can city leaders and residents work together to put that data into use? 

Our brand new guide, released yesterday, is designed to help cities collaborate on impactful use of open government data. It challenges city halls to make open data programs more transparent, accountable, and participatory, and empowers residents to make the most of open data resources. 

Check out the guide and start in on a project, product, or tool that addresses a specific need in your community.

  • You might remember that we originally released a public Beta of the Guide to Tactical Data Engagement back in March. We were thrilled by the response! The guide received plenty of attention, yielded dozens of comments, and spurred important conversations among our networks of governance experts, advocates, and city leaders. Sunlight's Open Cities Team highlighted some of the major lessons from that feedback that went into the final version of the guide on the Sunlight Blog


  • President Trump is using money from his campaign and the RNC to cover Russia-related legal expenses. Yesterday, Karen Freifeld and Ginger Gibson reported that "U.S. President Donald Trump is using money donated to his re-election campaign and the Republican National Committee to pay for his lawyers in the probe of alleged Russian interference in the U.S. election…" While FEC rules allow candidates and elected officials to use campaign funds to cover related legal expenses, "Trump would be the first U.S. president in the modern campaign finance era to use such funds to cover the costs of responding to a criminal probe, said election law experts." (Reuters
  • Reporters are growing increasingly frustrated by decreased access to the Defense Department. "Under Mattis, the Defense Department has become less transparent and publicly accountable than it has been in previous administrations, according to interviews with numerous reporters who cover the beat. The reporters requested anonymity, saying they feared that being quoted by name could lead to further loss of access." (POLITICO)
  • Office of American Innovation outlines priorities. Speaking at an event hosted by Government Executive, Matt Lira, a senior White House tech advisor, outlined the Office of American Innovation's priorities. Those priorities include "improving citizen-facing services, shared services" and IT modernization legislation, according to this report by Chase Gunter. (Federal Computer Week)

washington watch

  • HHS Secretary used private jets on an official trip last week. "In a sharp departure from his predecessors, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price last week took private jets on five separate flights for official business, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars more than commercial travel." (POLITICO)
  •  These companies fought to stay in Paris Climate Agreement while donating to a group fighting climate rules. Rachel Leven and Jamie Smith Hopkins ask why at least 25 companies "who sought to preserve the United States’ role in the landmark Paris agreement…also support a GOP group that’s fought to undo a key Obama-era domestic climate initiative?" The companies in question have donated more than $3 million to the Republican Attorneys General Association over the past 4 years. (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Library of Congress embraces the future with new "Labs" program. "The Library of Congress is experimenting with information crowdsourcing through a new project from the just-launched, the library’s new home for digital experiments." (FedScoop
  • OPEN Government Data Act poised to pass Congress as part of NDAA. Alex Howard explained the importance of the bill, which Sunlighters where involved in drafting, writing "No single law will magically unlock all of that knowledge for the benefit of the public nor address the threats to democratic norms in Washington, but passage of the OPEN Government Data Act will enact many of the core principles and approaches to opening government that Sunlight has advocated for since our founding over a decade ago." (Sunlight Foundation

around the world

A screenshot of the Artikel 38 dashboard, via the Alliance for Securing Democracy.
  • An online dashboard is monitoring Russian propaganda around German elections. Artikel 38 — named after Article 38 of the German constitution, which says the Bundestag shall be elected freely and fairly — is an online dashboard that pulls from more than 600 Twitter accounts affiliated with the Kremlin, either directly or indirectly, to determine how influential they are in conversations about the German elections." (Poynter)
  • U.S. Ambassador weighs in on corruption and open government in Nepal. U.S. Ambassador Alaina B Teplitz writes "The array of allegations of corruption, the minimal accountability those involved face, and the public fatigue make it clear that—regardless of the merits of any of the individual recent cases—corruption has permeated all levels of the public and private sector in Nepal." (myRepublica) We're glad to see the ambassador publicly discussing these important topics.
  • Mounting evidence that Mexican government is surveilling civil society. "The abundance of examples and technical evidence unearthed by this range of civil society groups and media outlets strongly indicates that these sophisticated espionage tools acquired by the Mexican government are not being used for legitimate purposes. From the opacity in its acquisition and use, to the many investigations and revelations that have arisen in recent times, it appears more and more likely that these intrusive technologies are being used to intimidate and silence dissent." (Global Voices)
  • Fake news, hate-speech, and profiling are undermining the rule of law in Kenya. "An upsurge in fake news, hate speech and ethnic-profiling after Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the presidential election risks undermining the East African country’s constitution and institutions, the embassies of the U.S., U.K. and 14 other nations said." (Bloomberg)

save the dates

  • September 23rd: Populist Plutocrats, lessons from around the world, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. "This one-day conference, co-sponsored by Harvard Law School and the Stigler Center, will focus on an important and dangerous political phenomenon: the “populist plutocrat.” The populist plutocrat is a leader who exploits the cultural and economic grievances of poorer, less-educated voters against traditional elites in order to achieve and retain power, but who, once in office, seem substantially or primarily interested in enriching him- or herself, along with a relatively small circle of family members, cronies, and allies." Learn more 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 on the event website. If you're interested, but can't attend the event will be broadcast live on the web.
  • September 28th – 30th: CityCampNC, Raleigh, North Carolina. "CityCampNC, part of NC Open Pass, is an annual event that brings citizens, public servants, academia, and businesses together to openly innovate and improve our communities in partnership with government." This year, Sunlight's Open Cities Director Stephen Larrick will be giving the keynote address at CityCampNC. Learn more and register to attend here
  • 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.
  • November 7th and 8th: The Harvard Summit on Data-Smart Government, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The "first-ever Harvard Summit on Data-Smart Government [is] presented by the Civic Analytics Network (CAN), a peer group of leading Chief Data Officers from America’s largest cities working to advance the use of data analytics in municipal government. At the Summit, you will learn about the ways data is reshaping how cities across the country work and hear from expert speakers including CAN Director Stephen Goldsmith, author of The Responsive City and Director of Harvard’s Innovations in Government program. Conference participants will be able to take part in training and workshops to gather practical knowledge about how to transform city services and government through the use of data and attend sessions on topics including how cities can leverage data for public safety, mobility, inspections, and more." You can learn more and register here, note that registration closes on October 6th.


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