Today in OpenGov: Opportunities to engage


Today, we're wrapping up a busy week with opportunities for civic engagement, the latest on Trump Cabinet officials and their love of charter flights, Facebook's 2011 fight against ad disclosure, campaign finance news out of Brazil and Mexico, and quick hits from across the open government world. 

citizens, engage! 

  • Congratulations to Memphis, Tennessee on their draft open data policy! If you live in Memphis, you can weigh in on the draft at Madison.
  • The government is seeking citizen feedback on their 4th Open Government Partnership National Action Plan. You have until October 2nd to weigh in! Read the draft plan and learn how to contribute here
  • Do you work for a city government that relies on federal data? The Sunlight Foundation is working on a new project and we want to hear from you! Learn more and take the survey here


A screenshot from Reuters' new Trump Effect project. 
  • White House will look into private email use by aides… "The White House has begun an internal review of its staff’s use of private email for government business, a person familiar with the inquiry said, as Congress scrutinizes an issue that echoes one of President Donald Trump’s key attacks on his opponent in last year’s election." Shannon Pettypiece has the full story at Bloomberg.
  • …Meanwhile, Jared Kushner failed to disclose private email use to Senate Intelligence Committee. "In his closed interview with the staff of the Senate intelligence committee, White House senior adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner did not share the existence of his personal email account, which he has used for official business, CNN has learned." (CNN)
  • Ryan Zinke joined the list of Trump Cabinet members who have used private charter jets… "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides have taken several flights on private or military aircraft, including a $12,000 charter plane to take him to events in his hometown in Montana and private flights between two Caribbean islands, according to documents and a department spokeswoman." (POLITICO)
  • …while HHS Secretary Tom Price announced that he would reimburse government. Charles Clark reports that "Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price late Thursday announced that he will halt such flights, cooperate with investigators and reimburse the U.S. Treasury for past such expenses with a personal check." Price is expected to pay for the cost of his seat on various flights, but not the entire cost. (Government Executive)
  • New Reuters project calls attention to Trump administration policies, not just its controversies. "Its new multimedia offering “The Trump Effect,” which launched today as a permanent addition to Reuters’s online presence, aims to track the consequences of administration policies—with interactive graphics, a news archive, and opinion polls." (Columbia Journalism Review)

washington watch

Image Credit: National Parks Service
  • Facebook sought political ad disclaimer exemption in 2011. "Federal election regulations state that political "communications placed for a fee on another person's website" must carry disclaimers stating that they are advertisements and who paid for them. Facebook sought an exception to disclaimer regulations citing space constraints for its "character-limited ads." Lawyers for the company argued the ads were so small that a disclaimer would be impracticable, according to Federal Election Commission records reviewed by CNN." (CNN)
  • FEC fines Boston construction company for illegal donations to pro-Clinton super PACs. "The Federal Election Commission has fined Boston-based Suffolk Construction Co., a federal government contractor, for making illegal contributions to a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC, according to a letter from the agency." (Center for Public Integrity
  • Trying to sell your manager on open data? Take them to a hackathon. That was the advice offered by Kristen Honey, a senior policy analyst within OMB’s Office of the Chief Information Officer, at the Data Transparency 2017 conference earlier this week. Mohana Ravindranath has more on Honey's remarks at NextGov.
  • Senators push F.B.I on whistleblower protections. "Last week, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to enhance Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) whistleblower protections in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The letter questioned how much the DOJ has done to implement recommendations from its own April 2014 report about its regulations protecting FBI whistleblowers." (Project on Government Oversight)

around the world

  • Mexico's ruling party seeks to privatize political cash… "Mexico’s ruling party is seeking a constitutional overhaul to eliminate all public funding to political parties months before presidential elections, a move that could benefit the party in power more than any other." (Bloomberg)
  • …while Brazil considers limiting public funds to smallest parties. "One sure-fire way of making a million reais in Brazil is to found a political party and qualify for government aid. But that perk is now under threat as Congress debates a political reform bill that would provide less cash for smaller parties." (Bloomberg)
  • National Democratic Institute closes offices in Cambodia amid crackdown. "On August 23, 2017 NDI received a letter from Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation ordering the Institute to close its office and expelling its international staff from the country. The government’s action against NDI was part of a larger and intense campaign against independent media, the political opposition and civil society. The crackdowns are taking place in the lead-up to the July 2018 elections, which are expected to be closely contested." (NDI)
  • MuckRock Canada will help improve access to information. "Built on the open source MuckRock platform, MuckRock Canada will make it easier for Canadians to exercise their rights under the Access to Information Act, while also building a rich, easily searchable database of previously released information. It will also help independent watchdogs keep track of how quickly agencies release information, and how often they withhold it." (MuckRock)

One sentence or less

  • Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch's post-confirmation speeches are drawing scrutiny. (Washington Post)
  • Senator Bob Menendez's (D-NJ) corruption trial touches on tricky political donations. (POLITICO)
  • Kellyanne Conway sold her polling firm to a conservative PR company. (The Hill)
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee will call Google executives to testify on Russia. (POLITICO)
  • Opening data helps improve services, stimulate economic activity or, at its best, how democracy works for the public. (StateScoop)

save the dates

  • October 12th: Examining Foreign Interference in U.S. Elections, Washington, DC. Hosted by the Campaign Legal Center, this even brings together campaign finance, cybersecurity, foreign policy, and other experts to discuss lessons learned from the 2016 election. Learn more, check out the agenda, 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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