Today in OpenGov: Some explaining to do


In today's edition, President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have some explaining to do, Google, Facebook, and Twitter try to hang on to their cake, the World Bank reflects on 5 years worth of open data investment, and more.  


Jeff Session on the campaign trail for Donald Trump. Image credit Gage Skidmore
  • President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions denied knowing about contacts between campaign and Russia. Unsealed court documents suggest otherwise. "Standing before reporters in February, President Trump said unequivocally that he knew of nobody from his campaign who was in contact with Russians during the election. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has told the Senate the same thing. Court documents unsealed this week cast doubt on both statements and raised the possibility that Mr. Sessions could be called back to Congress for further questioning." (New York Times)
  • Ivanka Trump appears to have used a personal email address to conduct public business for months after officially joining her father's administration. "New e-mails procured by a government transparency advocacy group show that the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, continued to use a personal e-mail account even after she joined her father’s administration beginning in March 2017 until at least July 2017." American Oversight published the documents, which they obtained via a FOIA request, on Thursday. (Ars Technica)
  • Following months of secrecy, Trump administration officially pulls out of Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative. After months of secrecy, the USA formally withdrew from the major global anti-corruption initiative. The United States has been involved in the EITI since President George W. Bush endorsed it in 2004. Project on Government Oversight Executive Director and the US Civil Society Chair of the EITI Danielle Brian had this to say following the announcement: "The government is suggesting that U.S. laws restrict companies from revealing information, including taxes, but this is not the truth. The government is perpetuating a false narrative created by the oil and gas industries that protect themselves and not the American people. Today’s move by the Department of the Interior is a major step backwards in transparency and will result in the public not knowing if they are getting every dollar due to them from the extraction of public resources. Instead, it’s another example of how this administration is taking deliberate actions to give industry an out of proportion voice in the policy decisions being made.
     (Project on Government Oversight)
  • Is the Trump Administration the most corrupt in history? "Now, a year after the election—and more than a year after Trump first made that pledge to the American people—many observers believe the swamp has grown into a sinkhole that threatens to swallow the entire Trump administration. The number of White House officials currently facing questions, lawsuits or investigation is astonishing…" (Newsweek) In January, Sunlight said that the appearance of corruption in the Trump administration would be ubiquitous, six months later we took stock. We wish we could say we were surprised by this headline. 

washington watch

  • 15 takeaways from big tech's big week on Capitol Hill. Alexis Madrigal writes, "during three Congressional hearings spread over two days, we heard a lot of bluster from senators and pat answers from tech-company lawyers about the role their firms played in the 2016 election. Scattered among all the questions, some new facts entered the public record. Here we attempt to catalog the important new information we learned." (The Atlantic) Meanwhile, Mathew Ingram argues that the company's want to "have their cake and eat it too." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • More than a dozen members of Congress have family on their campaign payrolls. "More than a dozen lawmakers have family members on their campaign payrolls, raising eyebrows at a time when nepotism in Washington is under renewed scrutiny. At least 13 members of Congress have paid family members from their campaign accounts so far this year, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission (FEC) data through the end of September." (The Hill)
  • Mine safety agency eyes regulatory cuts while ignoring formal feedback process. Unlike other agencies trying to get rid of regulations under the Trump Administration, the Mine Safety and Health Administration decided against filing a formal notice with the Federal Register. "Instead, the MSHA posted an email address on its website to solicit suggestions for rules to cut," according to this report by Dino Grandoni. (Washington Post)

around the world

Screenshot of an interactive map of public works projects in Buenos Aires. 
  • The World Bank looks back on five years of helping countries build open data capabilities. "This year marks the fifth anniversary of the World Bank’s efforts to help countries launch their own open data initiatives, and harness the power of open data to benefit their citizens. A new report provides insights into how open data is benefitting countries, what strategies are working well, what could be improved." (World Bank Data Blog)
  • New open data on public works projects in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Alvaro Herrero tweeted about the project, which includes data on more than 800 projects in the city. (The City of Buenos Aires link in Portuguese) 
  • Macedonian court ruling may exonerate politically targeted journalist. "Macedonian journalist Tomislav Kezarovski can finally expect to be formally exonerated of political charges against him, after nearly five years of struggle. Kezarovski was sentenced to four and a half years in prison on trumped-up charges in October 2013, but a new court verdict from a related case has de facto exonerated him." (Global Voices)
  • At the nexus of media, money, and politics in Mexico. "Mexico’s a dangerous place for journalists, who are often targeted by drug cartels. There’s another, more insidious threat to press freedom — one that may influence who wins power in next year’s elections. It comes from politicians, and their money." In this article, Nacha Cattan explores the various, and often under the table, ways that Mexican politicians pay for positive press coverage and political cover. (Bloomberg)

one sentence or less

  • According to a new IG report, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is scoring top marks on DATA Act compliance. (FedScoop)
  • A federal court recently limited the ability of FBI employees to defend themselves using whistleblower retaliation arguments. (Government Executive)
  • Meanwhile, President Trump signed a law that would make supervisors face discipline for whistleblower retaliation. (Washington Post)
  • The Census Bureau launched a new campaign to highlight stories behind their data. (America Counts)


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