Today in OpenGov: Real big spenders


In today's edition, we release a new Tactical Data Engagement resource, Super PACs set ambitious spending goals for 2018, a House Committee marks up important open government legislation, the future of the Global Open Data Index is assessed, and much more. 

states and cities

  • Explore our first Tactical Data Engagement Playbook, which focuses on data user groups. Sunlight's Open Cities Team explained the playbook, the first in a series digging deeper into TDE tactics. "For people wondering what a data user group IS, exactly, or how it can help strengthen communication between data providers, users, and intermediaries to solve community challenges, we created TDE Playbook: Data User Groups." Read more about the playbook and how it come together on the Sunlight Foundation blog
  • Georgia attorney general quits defense in election integrity case. "The Georgia attorney general’s office will no longer represent the state’s top elections official in an elections integrity lawsuit filed three days before a crucial computer server was quietly wiped clean. The lawsuit aims to force Georgia to retire its antiquated and heavily questioned touchscreen election technology, which does not provide an auditable paper trail." (Associated Press)
  • San Diego mayor decides in favor of more open open-records process. "San Diego’s public-records process was made more public this week, as Mayor Kevin Faulconer overruled a city staff decision to withhold certain records of the process from U-T Watchdog." (San Diego Union-Tribune via NFOIC)
  • Despite some glitches, board overseeing major new interstate tolling system has no plans for public meetings. A four person board charged with overseeing the RiverLink high-speed tolling network between Indiana and Kentucky — launched following the completion of a $2.3 billion transportation project — hasn't held any meetings, despite pledging "in its bylaws to meet at least once every three months," reports Marcus Green. Sunlight's Stephen Larrick weighed in on the lack of access caused by the board's failure to meet, arguing that "when you take away the platform for public feedback, you take away public feedback and ultimately public accountability." (WDRB)


Image credit Pictures of Money.
  • Trump tied super PAC plans $100 million in spending on tax reform, 2018 midterms. "The group, dubbed America First Action, is expected to host a fundraiser in the coming months that will be attended by Vice President Mike Pence and is in talks with the administration to get Trump to headline an event. It has tapped oil and gas mogul Harold Hamm, a Trump ally whose net worth exceeds $11 billion, to boost its fundraising campaign. And it is recruiting major Republican Party donors across the country." (POLITICO) Meanwhile, major Democratic Super PAC plans to drop $50 million on digital ads alone on 2018. "A Democratic super PAC is planning to spend at least $50 million over the next year on digital advertising to elect Democrats across the country in what is believed to be the largest sum ever set aside for such outreach on the political left." (Washington Post)
  • White House has no plan for dealing with Trump's conflict according to new report by Democrats on Senate Oversight Committee. "No plan of action has been developed for President Donald Trump and other White House officials’ potential conflicts of interest. A new report from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ranking Member Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) says the Treasury Department was charged with confronting them, but the department hasn’t developed any policies or procedures for responding to conflicts. Treasury also said it’s up to the White House to develop those procedures." (Federal News Radio) You can read the report here
  • Treasury IG clears chief of staff of wrongdoing for hitching a free ride on a hedge-funders private jet. "The Treasury Department’s internal watchdog said a free private-jet trip to Palm Beach that a hedge fund founder provided a top department official didn’t break any ethics laws, though it urged employees to decline gifts that could appear to compromise their impartiality." (Bloomberg)

washington watch

  • House committee to mark up evidence based policy legislation, featuring OPEN Government Data Act, today. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will markup a host of bills today, including the Foundations For Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2017. The bill, which is sponsored by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-OH), includes the text of the OPEN Government Data Act. We've been supporting an the Open Government Data Act for more than 3 years and are glad to see it included here. This is an important endorsement of open government data by one of the most powerful politicians in the world. It is a milestone for the open movement, an important validation of this way of making public policy, and the fundamental principles of data-driven 21st century governance.
  • Does the Supreme Court have an ethics problem? Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) sets out to answer that question in this POLITICO piece. She explains that "Supreme Court justices are the only federal judges who are not bound by a formal code of conduct. The reason, as explained by Chief Justice Roberts, is that the Supreme Court is the only court created under Article III of the Constitution, while the lower courts are created by Congress. For Chief Justice Roberts, it’s sufficient that the justices consult the code when determining their ethical duties and voluntarily abide by rules on a case-by-case basis."
  • When it comes to disinformation, tech companies can't be trusted to police themselves. Renee Diresta and Tristan Harris explain why, from their perspective, "as a social media disinformation researcher with Data for Democracy and a former Google design ethicist, respectively, we think technology platforms have a responsibility to shield their users from manipulation and propaganda. So far, they have done a terrible job doing that. Even worse, they have repeatedly covered up how much propaganda actually infiltrates their platforms."(POLITICO)

around the world

  • Assessing the future of the Global Open Data Index. Responding to questions on the status of the Global Open Data Index (GODI) the folks at Open Knowledge International explore the future of GODI and lay out some possible changes. In the near term, they write, "we have decided to focus on working on the aforementioned use cases and a regional Index during 2018. In the meantime, we will still work with our community to define a vision that will make GODI a sustainable measurement tool: we understand that tracking the changes in government data publication is crucial for the activists and governments themselves. We know that progress around open data is slower than we would like it to be, but therefore we need to ensure that discussions around open data do not end. Please do not hesitate to submit new discussions around country entries on our forum or reach out to us if you have any ideas on how to take GODI forwards and improve." (Open Knowledge)
  • The U.K. is officially investigating dark money accusations around Brexit. "The U.K. Electoral Commission said Wednesday it had opened an investigation into whether millionaire U.K. Independence Party donor Aaron Banks breached campaign finance rules during the 2016 Brexit referendum." (POLITICO)
  • Pakistan's new RTI law will require transparency from NGO's. Author and Activist Zahid Abdullah writes in support of the law, arguing that "like charity, transparency should begin at home." Further, he writes "The RAI law of 2017 is definitely better than the Freedom of Information Ordinance, 2002 that it has replaced. It contains strong provisions pertaining to the proactive disclosure of information, indexation and computerisation of records, the establishment of an independent, autonomous information commission, and, broadening the scope of the definition of public body, it brings NGOs within the purview of the law." ( via OGP)


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