Today in OpenGov: Probing questions


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Once you've done that, you can read on for your daily dose of open government news from Washington, DC, around the United States, and across the globe. 

washington watch

The big tech companies don't skimp on their lobbying outlays. Via Quartz. 
  • Regulating the tech industry won't be a walk in the park for Washington. "But companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon dominate their markets, and have deep pockets and armies of lobbyists. That, combined with historical precedent, gridlock in Congress, and the Donald Trump White House’s aversion to regulation in general, means passing new laws or rules to rein them is going to be a tough battle, some government and industry veterans say." (Quartz)
  • Travel troubles extend to Obama appointed Federal Housing Finance Agency director. "Mel Watt, the director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, sometimes tasked FHFA employees with driving him and his wife to the airport for personal trips, and directed staff members to book flights unrelated to government business, the agency’s inspector general said in a December 2016 report." (Bloomberg)
  • Sunlight joins broad coalition urging Congress to pass meaningful surveillance reforms. This letter, signed by Sunlight and "a diverse group of 58 organizations, urges the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee to ensure that any Section 702 reform bill meaningfully closes the “backdoor search loophole,” through which the FBI accesses American’s communications without a warrant." (ACLU)


Image via
  • EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's calendar is heavy on industry executives, light on public interest. The New York Times, digging into a cache of documents released via a FOIA request by American Oversight, reports that "Since taking office in February, Mr. Trump’s E.P.A. chief has held back-to-back meetings, briefing sessions and speaking engagements almost daily with top corporate executives and lobbyists from all the major economic sectors that he regulates — and almost no meetings with environmental groups or consumer or public health advocates, according to a 320-page accounting of his daily schedulefrom February through May, the most detailed look yet at what Mr. Pruitt has been up to since he took over the agency." (New York Times)
  • VA Secretary Shulkin's European trip under IG review. "The VA's inspector general is reviewing Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin's July business trip to London and Denmark, which included meetings with Danish and UK officials as well as a stop at Wimbledon." (CNN)
  • Treasury IG probing top Mnuchin aide's private jet jaunt with hedge fund founder. "The Treasury Department’s inspector general has requested documents and records related to a trip a top aide took on a private jet with the founder of a hedge fund." Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's chief of staff Eli Miller reportedly flew with the founding partner of a New York based hedge fund. (Bloomberg)
  • Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump fined for late financial disclosures. "Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, senior advisers to President Donald Trump, were both fined $200 for missing deadlines to submit financial reports required by government ethics rules, according to documents and interviews." (McClatchy DC) It is unclear if they tried the old "the dog ate my disclosure" excuse. 
  • The couple also rerouted their private email addresses to Trump Organization servers as news of their existence broke. "President Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump re-routed their personal email accounts to computers run by the Trump Organization as public scrutiny intensified over their use of private emails to conduct White House business, internet registration records show." (USA Today)

around the world

A screenshot from the Dirección Nacional de Contrataciones Públicas (DNCP) open contracting portal. Image via Open Contracting Partnership. 
  • In Paraguay, citizens are using open contracting to improve public spending. Sophie Brown and Georg Neumann detail how open data around public procurement has become available after open government reforms in Paraguay, helping citizens and journalists monitor and track government contracts and get results. (Open Contracting Partnership)
  • Despite growing outrage, members of the Brazilian Congress are hesitant to punish their colleagues. "Flagrant acts of bribery, violence and even murder have proved insufficient reasons for Brazilian legislators to strip their colleagues of office. In the latest example, senators protested vociferously last week after the Supreme Court ordered the expulsion of one of their own: Aecio Neves, a former presidential candidate accused of corruption." (Bloomberg)

one sentence or less

  • ICE's poorly conceived "immigration crime" tip line is a good example of weaponized disclosure eroding trust in government. (Splinter News)
  • The Justice Department released memos issued to Presidents from Nixon to Obama explaining why it's illegal to appoint family members to government jobs. (POLITICO)
  • The CIA denied the Senate Judiciary Committee's request for access to information on Russian election meddling. (POLITICO)
  • The Supreme Court is considering a major case on partisan gerrymandering. (The Atlantic)
  • President Trump's deleted Tweets raise 7 legal questions. (Columbia Journalism Review)


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