Today in OpenGov: ICE melts over Personally Identifiable Information


In today's edition, the POLITICO reporters who uncovered Tom Price's pricey travel explain how they did it, we share a new way to classify web content alterations, San Francisco balances open data with privacy, Ryan Zinke faces scrutiny for mixing politics with official business, and more. 

washington watch

  • How we're classifying changes to public access to information on US government websites. "What did this government website look like yesterday? A month ago? A year ago? Why does this URL redirect? When did this link stop working? These are questions we rarely ask when browsing the Web, but the answers can be important, especially as we seek to hold the United States government accountable for what information is made available on federal websites, how agencies choose to present that information, and what alterations to content and access are made." To try and answer some of those questions, Sunlight Fellows Andrew Bergman and Toly Rinberg have developed a classification of Web content alterations and changes in access to Web resources. Read more on the Sunlight Foundation blog.
  • Digging into Facebook's long fight against online ad disclosure. Sarah Frier and Bill Allison dig deep into the story, writing that since "2011, Facebook has asked the Federal Election Commission for blanket exemptions from political advertising disclosure rules — transparency that could have helped it avoid the current crisis over Russian ad spending ahead of the 2016 U.S. election." (Bloomberg)
  • Bipartisan group revives criminal justice reform in the Senate. "A group of influential senators rolled out a sweeping bill to overhaul the nation’s criminal justice system and sentencing laws, reviving a bipartisan effort that had been left for dead last year. The new legislation, led by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), is aimed at easing sentences for some non-violent offenders, such as for drug crimes, while beefing up other tough-on-crime laws." (POLITICO)
  • Texas Representative focused on bipartisan nature of cybersecurity, technology, modernization. "Congressman Will Hurd (R-), who represents the 23rd District of Texas, aims to repaint the administration-landscape, in the hopes that the bipartisan issues standing on the steps of Capitol Hill are moving up the staircase…On a daily basis, Hurd has the harmonization of cyber norms and data protection regulation on his mind." (Executive Gov)
  • Interior Department whistleblower resigns amid pressure on civil servants. "A career civil servant who claimed retribution by the Trump administration after speaking out as a whistleblower resigned from his post on Wednesday, citing poor leadership and wasteful spending as the factors that drove him out." (Government Executive)
  • ICE takes down FOIA reading room after attention called to posted PII. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement took down its FOIA reading room after Splinter News published a story indicating that documents posted to the site may have included sensitive personal information. 


The memorable jet that Tom Price chartered for a $25,000 roundtrip between DC and Philadelphia. 
  • How two POLITICO reporters told the story that grounded Tom Price's charter flights. Dan Diamond and Rachana Pradhan tell the story of their months long investigation which included painstaking efforts to build trust with sources, reverse engineering Price's schedules from severely limited information, and multiple stake outs at Dulles airport. Read the full, almost unbelievable, story at POLITICO.
  • The Open Government Partnership released its independent research assessment of progress on the US commitments. The Open Government Partnership's independent researcher's assessment of USA open government progress (as of mid-2016) is online for comment. (Open Government Partnership Independent Reporting Mechanism) The public and journalists will find the report useful for thinking about United States efforts on open government beyond compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. We found the section of the report on this administration's record to date on transparency, accountability and ethics to be both timely and accurate.
  • Treasury has not had a designated ethics officer since July. "Treasury’s former assistant general counsel for law, ethics and regulation, Rochelle Granat, had filled the ethics post for seven years, according to her LinkedIn profile, which says she left the job in July. The Office of Government Ethics website that lists designated ethics officers for each federal agency shows that the Treasury post is unfilled." (Bloomberg)
  • Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were close to being indicted for fraud, until a major political donor got involved. "In the spring of 2012, Donald Trump’s two eldest children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., found themselves in a precarious legal position. For two years, prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office had been building a criminal case against them for misleading prospective buyers of units in the Trump SoHo, a hotel and condo development that was failing to sell." Then, Donald Trump Sr.'s longtime personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz got involved. Kasowitz, who had donated $25,000 to Manhattan AD Cyrus Vance Jr.'s reelection campaign, asked Mr. Vance to drop the case. (ProPublica)
  • Documents show the Secretary of the Interior regularly mixes department-paid trips with political commitments. "Republican donors paid up to $5,000 per couple for a photo with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at a fundraiser held during a taxpayer-funded trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to documents reviewed by POLITICO — raising questions about his habit of mixing official government business with political activism." (POLITICO)

states and cities

The Golden Gate Bridge. Credit: Guillaume Paumier.
  • San Francisco's open data puts a premium on privacy. San Francisco's Chief Data Officer Joy Bonaguro was unhappy with the existing resources aimed at helping open data programs balance out privacy concerns so she worked with DataSF, the city's data office, to build a better one. The result: DataSF's Open Data Release Toolkit. (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • New tool aims at helping state and local governments compare their financials. ClearGov recently "launched a nationwide data tool for comparing state and local governments’ financials against each other. The tool, available for governments in all 50 states and encompassing more than 36,000 municipalities, offers data for a whole range of revenue and spending categories like sales and excise taxes, debt, general funds, public works spending and federal aid." (Government Technology)
  • A Texas judge is blocking the state from sharing records with Trump "voter fraud" commission. "A Texas civil judge has temporarily blocked the state from turning over voter information to the White House's election integrity commission out of fears that the data won't be adequately protected." (The Hill)


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