Today in OpenGov: Search and deliver


In today's edition, we've got all of the latest news from a busy first fall weekend in Washington, including Jared Kushner's use of private email server for public business in the White House to Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price's decision to stop flying private charters to President Trump's fight with some of his favorite donors over the peaceful protests of professional athletes, and much more. 


  • An unreported Turkish Airlines Golf event at Trump Golf Course tees off emolumental problems. You know about pay to play, but this is "play to sway," as Alex Howard explained. While another example of "foreign governments are booking expensive events at Trump properties isn’t a breaking story, as CBS and many other outlets have reported over the year. The president has chosen to inform the public about other issues this week than another one of his businesses taking money from an airline that another nation’s government holds a 49% stake in." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Over the past year, senior White House official Jared Kushner conducted public business on a private email server. Josh Dawsey reports that "presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December, part of a larger pattern of Trump administration aides using personal email accounts for government business." The White House confirmed the report and asserted that the correspondence was rare — and all emails where forwarded to Kushner's official White House account to comply with federal record keeping requirements. We're tracking. (POLITICO)
  • Secretary Price will stop using private jets while review is under way. "Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, said on Saturday that he did not plan to travel on private jets until the department’s inspector general completes a formal review of the use of taxpayer funds for his chartered flights." (New York Times)
  • President Trump's comments on national anthem protests create strain with some of his biggest donors, NFL owners. "Until this week, the relationship between the National Football League’s owners and Trump was mostly a cozy one. Nine team owners donated money to Trump or to groups that supported him both during his campaign and since his election. Together they’ve given more than $10 million, according to the Federal Election Commission." However, as Ira Boudway and Bill Allison report, the President put "NFL owners in an unwanted spotlight this weekend with his suggestion…that they should fire players who protest during the national anthem and calling on fans to boycott the league." (Bloomberg)
  • Ethics experts agree, Trump administration is far from normal. "President Donald Trump’s young administration has already sharply diverged from the ethical norms that typically govern the executive branch, exposing vulnerabilities in the system, a small group of ethics experts and former government officials agreed Saturday." (Center for Public Integrity)

sunshine in facebookistan?

Russian ad buys on Facebook are prompting calls to end the World West of political advertising. (Bloomberg)

  • As we told Vice, however, the broader issue of dark money on social media is a big story that might be missed with the focus on Russia. "Experts also worry that money from wealthy individuals, shadowy political nonprofits, or business interests is being used to promote content on Facebook that escapes the scrutiny of other lobbying efforts." (Vice News)
  • The FEC and Congress should enact regulatory and legislative reforms that mandate disclosure of a public political ad file from technology companies.

washington watch

  • The importance of search functions for public access to information highlighted by changes at the USGS. Last week, Sunlight fellows Toly Rinberg and Andrew Bergman noted alarm about reported changes to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website driven by political motivation to remove climate data. We looked into it, and could not corroborate them. Instead, we saw what looked like an issue with search indexing. The USGS confirmed what our fellows saw: the agency has been transitioning to Drupal since the spring of 2016, which has apparently affected how their webpages are crawled and indexed. The full story is on the Sunlight Foundation blog.
  • If a congressional aide profits from inside stock information, but no one in Congress cares, is it insider trading? Maggie Severns details "…Congress’ persistent refusal to crack down on stock trading by staffers, even in firms overseen by their committees…A POLITICO review of federal disclosures for 2015 and 2016 found that some senior aides regularly buy and sell individual stocks that present potential conflicts of interest with their work. A smaller number of staffers trade in companies that lobby Congress and the committees that employ them. In all, approximately 450 aides have bought or sold a stock of more than $1,001 in value since May 2015." (POLITICO)  
  • A look at the money flowing into Alabama's special U.S. Senate election. Michael Beckel digs into the $20 million that has been spent on the election by the candidates and outside political groups, highlighting some interesting numbers. (Issue One)
  • Feds tell 21 states they were targeted by Russian hackers during election. "Wisconsin, Ohio, California and 10 other states said on Friday they were among 21 states that Russian government hackers targeted in an effort to sway the 2016 presidential election in favor of Donald Trump though no votes were changed. The Department of Homeland Security confirmed it had notified the states of the activity but declined to identify them." (Reuters)

around the world

  • Member of the European Parliament faces scrutiny for links to Swiss entities. "The president of the European Parliament should scrutinize German MEP Markus Ferber’s links to two Switzerland-registered organizations, the anti-corruption NGO Transparency International said in response to an article by POLITICO." (POLITICO)
  • Where did the Philippine President's wealth come from? "The Philippine president says he became a local millionaire at a young age due to inheritance and reiterated he has no unexplained wealth as alleged by his leading critic, who questioned his claim that he was born into an impoverished family." (Bloomberg)

save the dates

  • 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


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!