Today in OpenGov: Is underfunding putting federal statistics at risk?


Before we dive into today’s top open government news, we would like to share a great opportunity to engage. Our friends at MuckRock are looking for feedback as they think about the future. We urge you to consider taking their survey, which should take 15 minutes and include questions applicable to readers of the MuckRock blog, regular users of their FOI services, or anyone who supports their work in other ways.

Once you’ve done that, read on for today’s look at open government news.

washington watch

  • Danny Vinik and Nancy Scola take a deep dive into the state of federal data for POLITICO. Danny Vinik outlines some troubling trends in the world of federal statistics, noting that as “wonky as it may sound, collecting and publishing information on Americans and U.S. businesses is one of the most important roles of the government…” (POLITICO) Meanwhile, Nancy Scola explores the world of data about individual Americans that is collected by the federal government, digging into some of the privacy and security concerns have existed for decades and others that are popping up more recently. (POLITICO)
  • The FEC is reopening public comments on online political ad disclosure. “The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is asking for public input on its disclosure rules for online political advertisements, as companies like Facebook and Google are being scrutinized by investigators for ads they ran during the 2016 presidential campaign.” (The Hill) We strongly encourage you to submit comments on this important issue. You can do so right here and get all the relevant details in the Federal Register.
  • ICE wants journalists to return or destroy sensitive information accidentally released by agency. “The Trump Administration is requesting that Splinter ‘return…or destroy’ all copies of a spreadsheet containing shockingly sensitive details of calls to a new Immigration and Customs Enforcement hotline purportedly aimed at crime victims and ‘refrain from using’ the information in any further reporting.” (Splinter News)


  • OGE issues memo to all agency heads stating concern over ethics commitment. “The remarks by David Apol, acting director of the Office of Government Ethics, came in an Oct. 5 memo to all executive branch agency heads. In the memo, which was released Tuesday, Apol encouraged the agency leaders to ‘re-double their commitments to ethics’ in government.” (Bloomberg) You can read the memo here.
  • Meanwhile, new reports show that Zinke attended political fundraisers while on official trips. “Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has attended at least two additional political fundraisers while traveling for official business, including a weekend ski getaway less than three weeks after he was sworn in that donors paid up to $3,000 to attend, according to sources and documents reviewed by POLITICO.” (POLITICO)
  • GAO report on Trump transition finds break from precedent on ethics. “The Trump-Pence transition team at times broke with past precedent during its transfer into the White House, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. The 48-page report primarily outlines how presidential transitions are run, but also compares how ethical recommendations were followed in various transitions.” (The Hill) You can read the GAO report here.
  • Indiana won’t release certain Pence emails and won’t say why. “Indiana officials are refusing to release an indeterminate number of emails from private accounts Mike Pence used as governor, and they’re not saying whether the vice president’s lawyers influenced which messages should be withheld.” (Bloomberg)
  • Attempt to help CBP evade FOIA stripped from border bill. “U.S. Rep. Martha McSally pulled a provision that would have allowed CBP to evade FOIA laws from a border bill moving through the House on Wednesday, after broke the news about the measure the previous day.” Dylan Smith reports that it is unclear when the language was first inserted in the bill, but McSally’s amendment to strike it was supported unanimously in the House Homeland Security Committee. (The Tucson Sentinel)

states and cities

Image Credit: Isaac Bowen
  • Can you ensure effective government services by killing off forms? Chris Bousquet and Stephen Goldsmith wonder, “maybe we should not be asking how we can make forms better, easier, even more consolidated, but rather if we need forms at all.” (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • Washington, DC Office of Open Government mostly successful in first Open Meetings Act test. “D.C. Superior Court Associate Judge John M. Campbell ruled September 27 that Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Advisory Commission on Caribbean Community Affairs violated the law by holding half a dozen meetings in 2016 without advance notice or draft agendas for the public and failing to record meetings even after staff were trained and given equipment.” The ruling is the result of the first court action by the District’s Office of Open Government. (DC Open Government Coalition)


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!