Today in OpenGov: Conspiracy theories


In today's edition, the GAO looks into Trump's "voter fraud" commission, the Justice Department looks for less foreign lobbying transparency, mySociety looks back at the first year of a Belgian transparency app, we highlight events on the schedule for November, and much more. 

washington watch

  • How the Department of Justice pushed for less foreign lobbying transparency. "The Department of Justice (DOJ) has recommended changing the language in the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) to make the law significantly less transparent, according to a document the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) obtained through the Freedom of Information Act." (Project on Government Oversight)
  • Trump blocks release of some JFK assassination records, but 2,800 to emerge soon. "President Donald Trump on Thursday delayed the release of some documents relating to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, while allowing the National Archives to post 2,800 other pages that had yet to be made public." (POLITICO) Meanwhile, Conor Friedersdorf reflects on what the records say about excessive government secrecy. In addition to other concerns, he writes, "the release should also serve as an occasion for reflection about why U.S. government officials keep so much of the information they possess from the public for so long." (The Atlantic)
  • Department of Justice expressed optimism for upcoming FOIA portal. Melanie Ann Pustay, who heads up the DoJ's Office of Information Policy, recently spoke about her expectations for the new portal and her hope that the portal provides leverage to improve FOIA processes more broadly. (NSArchive)
  • Is the end near for the DUNS Number's monopoly on federal entity identification? "A new procurement announcement from the General Services Administration (GSA) has confirmed that the U.S. federal government is seriously considering a new, open future for the way contractors and grantees are identified." (Data Coalition)


  • The GAO will investigate President Trump's "voter fraud" commission. "GAO said it would investigate the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity in response to a letter last week from Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). In a response letter to Bennet, the agency accepted the request on Wednesday 'as work that is within the scope of its authority.'" (POLITICO)
  • Politics is proving to be a complication for the Kushner Companies. "Jared Kushner is both a Senior Advisor and son-in-law to President Trump, and, like the president, he and his family were in the real estate business before getting into politics. The Kushner Companies' troubled development on 5th Avenue in New York City shows how politics have complicated that business." (NPR)
  • Cracks appear to form in formerly bipartisan Senate Russia investigation. "Top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are signaling they are heading in separate directions on the panel's probe on the 2016 presidential election, potentially threatening what had been a bipartisan investigation. " (The Hill)
  • After election day at least one Russian meddling effort turned against Trump. "People believed to be Russians meddling in American politics swiftly chose a new target in the days after the 2016 election: trying to organize anti-Trump rallies, according to private messages from a page aimed at black civil rights activists that has been linked to a wider Russian effort." (BuzzFeed)

around the world

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  • Reflecting on a successful first year for Transparencia, a Belgian FOI site. "A year ago, we helped Belgian group Anticor launch the Alaveteli site for Belgium,, and so far it’s been an incredible success. Since launch, the site’s had almost 60,000 visitors and over 375,000 page views— that’s unusually high for an FOI site in its infancy — and they’ve even brought about a change in local FOI law. So how exactly have Anticor achieved so much in such a short time?" Read on to find out. (mySociety)
  • Turkey releases jailed human rights activists on bail. "Eight human rights activists, including German citizen Peter Steudtner and Amnesty International’s Turkey chief Idil Eser, were released from prison in Turkey on bail Thursday, German media reported. The activists were detained in July after participating in a workshop organized by human rights organizations including Amnesty International on an island off the coast of Istanbul." (POLITICO)

november happenings

  • November 1st: Transparency Tactics and FOIA Karaoke with MuckRock in Washington, DC. Michael Morisy from MuckRock writes: In the D.C. area and want to learn how to peek inside federal agencies using FOIA? Join the Society of Professional Journalists’ D.C. Chapter and MuckRock from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 1 for a look at the latest strategies and new advice for more targeted requests, followed by a few rounds of “FOIA Karaoke.”
  • November 1st: Breakfast Panel on the Global Threat of Disinformation vs. Democracy in Washington, DC. "While Russia often dominates the U.S. headlines on issues of disinformation, the problem is global in scale. The perpetrators are multi-national, working to disrupt their own populations or those of other countries. On Wednesday, November 1, NDI will host a breakfast panel on disinformation vs. democracy around the world." Speakers include Sen. Ben Cardin. Learn more via the National Democratic Institute.
  • 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 here
  • November 13th – 15th: The Public Good App House Festival in Washington, DC. "The top experts in Public Good Technologies are coming together for the Public Good App House Festival of the Americas in Washington, DC from November 13th – 15th, 2017. The festival will be centered around the UN Sustainable Development Goals, showcasing Public Good Technologies that are helping to mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind." Events tied to the festival will be held in public libraries across DC! Learn more here and register to attend here
  • 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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