Today in OpenGov: The wrong price for that flight


In today's edition, we get ready for the fifth annual National Day of Civic Hacking, try to keep up with Tom Price's flight schedule, encourage Congress to hold Facebook accountable to its transparency commitments, and much more. 


  • Expanding our list of Trump family conflicts of interest with a focus on Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Hilary Niles sheds more Sunlight on the Trump family's global conflicts, sharing how our "modest list of dozens expanded to hundreds, and now has nearly doubled after the inclusion of the financial interests claimed by his daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom serve as special advisers to Pres. Trump." Read the full story on the Sunlight Blog.
  • HHS Secretary Price loves to fly private on taxpayer dime. "Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has taken at least 24 flights on private charter planes at taxpayers’ expense since early May, according to people with knowledge of his travel plans and a review of HHS documents." The cost of these trips, which often coincided with low-cost commercial options, exceeds $300,000 according to reporting by Rachana Pradhan and Dan Diamond. (POLITICO) In contrast, Education Secretary DeVos has been covering her own travel costs. "Education Secretary Betsy DeVos flies on her private jet for official business and pays all her own travel expenses as well as the travel costs of the federal marshals who accompany her, the Education Department confirmed to POLITICO on Thursday." (POLITICO)
  • Anti-leak training. Coming soon to a federal agency near you. "National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster last week sent a directive—subsequently obtained by several media outlets—to all federal agencies demanding they train their employees on the 'serious consequences' of improper leaks of such information by Sept. 22." Agencies are now moving to implement the directive. (Government Executive)
  • Trump is filling the proverbial swamp, not draining it. Conor Friedersdorf, citing Sunlight's list of the President's conflicts of interest among other evidence, argues "There is no campaign promise that Donald Trump has failed to honor more flagrantly than his oft repeated pledge to 'drain the swamp' in Washington, D.C. He has violated the letter of his promise and trampled all over its spirit. His supporters ought to be furious. But few perceive the scale of his betrayal or its brazenness." (The Atlantic

washington watch

  • Congress should help make Facebook's commitment to online ad transparency more than voluntary. Yesterday, Mark Zuckerberg went live on Facebook and shared a series of actions that the world's largest social network plans to take on election integrity. You can read his statement here. Among other points, Zuckerberg committed to greater transparency around its political ads. We're glad that Facebook is listening, but voluntary action isn't enough: The FEC and Congress should act on regulatory and legislative reforms that mandate disclosure of a public political ad file from technology companies. Read our full take on the Sunlight Blog.
  • New open data on trove of non-profit, state, and local single audits. The federal government requires non-profits, state and local governments that receive more than $750,000 in federal funds to submit annual audited financial statements. The Census Bureau recently began publishing these documents on its Federal Audits Clearinghouse, but our friend Marc Joffe noticed that the data couldn't be crawled by search engines. He created a tool to do just that and the good folks at ProPublica used it to add 17,000 non-profit single audits to their NonProfit Explorer tool
  • Alabama Senator dogged by corruption connections ahead of special election. "Five days before his showdown with Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in the Republican primary runoff for the Alabama Senate special election, Sen. Luther Strange still finds himself batting away corruption accusations from state legislators in Montgomery." According to this report by Griffin Connolly two state representatives held a joint news conference to voice their concerns "regarding Strange’s role in an investigation that saw the conviction of former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard on 11 corruption charges." (Roll Call)

states and cities

  • Data access is a key component of disaster recovery. Denice Ross argues that transparency is a key component of disaster recovery that is easier acknowledged than carried out. She writes, "For one, transparency during crisis doesn’t come naturally. Some may worry that opening up data may open them up to scrutiny. Power companies might be nervous that outage data would make them look bad.  Elected officials might worry that families won’t move back if environmental data reveal contamination or if crime looks to be on the rise. Nonprofits might be hesitant to open data on donations and outcomes because of public scrutiny of overhead costs. Institutions might worry about privacy or fraud—say, a scam artist targeting households that received recovery benefits. Or they may simply not realize they have useful information to share." (Slate)
  • New ruling adds to argument that warrants are required to gather evidence via Stingray technology. "The case, Prince Jones v. United States, joins a recent string of judgements from around the country that concluded that stingrays are a 'search' under the Fourth Amendment. That means they require a warrant, barring exigent circumstances or other known exceptions." (Ars Technica)

national day of civic hacking

Tomorrow is the fifth annual National Day of Civic Hacking. There are at least 36 events taking place in 34 jurisdictions across the United States. 

"An emerging and noteworthy trend throughout several of the hyper-local efforts this year" reports Zach Quaintance, "is a focus on enticing attendees who normally wouldn’t think of themselves as tech experts." (Government Technology)

You can find the full list of events and get involved here

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.
  • November 17th – 19th: Data 4 Black Lives, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Community members, organizers, academics, technologists, educators, artists, policy makers, and public servants will come together for the inaugural Data for Black Lives conference at the MIT Media Lab. Learn more, check out some of the conference panels, and register to attend right here


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