Today in OpenGov: Conflicted


In today's edition, the Supreme Court tentatively steps into the 21st century, you really can't be too rich for conflicts of interest, media blackouts weigh on President Trump's Asia trip, and more. 

washington watch

  • For the first time, the Supreme Court will provide access to briefs and case documents via its website. "A new era of cutting-age technology begins Monday at the United States Supreme Court, as the public for the first time will be able to access briefs and other case documents on the court’s website." As Robert Barnes reports, the Supreme Court, which is notoriously slow to adopt new technological advances, has been working on the project since 2014. (Washington Post) Sunlight has been encouraging this sort of reform at the Supreme Court for years and we are very glad to see this effort move forward. 
  • Walter Shaub has 13 ideas to improve government ethics. Last week, Walter Shaub, senior director, ethics, at Campaign Legal Center (CLC) and former director of the Office of Government Ethics met with House leaders and publicly released 13 policy recommendations to strengthen the government ethics program. You can read all 13 proposals here. We hope that Congress moves to enact these proposals, especially those on transparency.  
  • Oversight reports find promise, progress, and room to improve on DATA Act implementation. We took a look at the report issued last week by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on DATA Act implementation. We expressed optimism and noted the report "marks a significant moment for DATA Act implementation. Its findings add to our optimism for the law’s future. Treasury and OMB have embraced an iterative approach to implementation and 'generally agreed' with GAO’s recommendations, a good sign that current deficiencies in implementation will be addressed." (Sunlight Foundation Blog)
  • Meanwhile, agency Inspectors General identified specific DATA Act deficiencies, led by the Department of Defense. "The Defense Department’s $700 billion budget dwarfs that of other federal agencies. Nonetheless, it hasn’t managed to find sufficient resources to accurately report how it spends all its funds. The department falls well short of requirements under the 2014 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act to show where its money goes." (Government Executive)
  • Head of nuclear security agency proposes ending public access to safety reports. "The head of the federal agency that produces U.S. nuclear weapons has privately proposed to end public access to key safety reports from a federal watchdog group that monitors ten sites involved in weapons production." (Center for Public Integrity)


New York Times photographer Doug Mills posted this image on Twitter to illustrate what "APEC Summit photo coverage" looked like  on Friday.
  • Facing pressure over lack of press access at Asian economic summit, White House pledges to do better. "Nearly all U.S. journalists covering President Donald Trump’s appearance at a major economic summit in Vietnam were barred from attending key events Friday and Saturday, including photo-ops featuring interactions between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, a situation the White House later pledged to take action to avoid happening again." (POLITICO)
  • President Trump's 1% cabinet heads illustrate conflict between financial transparency and the secret reality of global wealth. Nicholas Confessore explains that, despite President Trump's assertions that their wealth would prevent conflicts of interest, "a cascade of revelations surrounding his advisers’ business holdings — including news this week that the commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., retained business ties to a Russian oligarch subject to sanctions — has thrust into view an inescapable contradiction between the financial transparency expected in public service and the realities of the modern global rich." (New York Times)
  • Federal Judge throws out suit seeking Clinton emails filed by conservative transparency groups. Max Greenwood reports that a "federal judge on Thursday dismissed a pair of lawsuits from conservative groups seeking to force the State Department to continue its search for Hillary Clinton's emails." The conservative leaning transparency groups Judicial Watch and Cause of Action "sought to force the State Department and National Archives to team up with the attorney general to recover the missing emails under the Federal Records Act" (The Hill)
  • Leaving Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a concrete example of Trump's teardown of the "architecture of global governance". Adam Davidson digs into the United States' recent withdrawal from the EITI, arguing that, alone "the U.S. pulling out of E.I.T.I. could be dismissed as a relatively obscure move, not one that reflects a retrenchment to a darker era of American foreign policy. Still, it does show that the Trump Administration is actively implementing, in real policy, its avowed distrust—even contempt—for international compacts designed to improve the lives of people around the world…Abandoning E.I.T.I. is not for show; it is a move toward dismantling the architecture of global governance." (The New Yorker)

around the world

Youtube screenshot from a rap song produced to promote President Xi Jinping's policies by the publicity department of the Communist Party of China. Image via Global Voices
  • Dissecting China's propaganda machine. The majority of western media outlets refer to China's ideological battle as “propaganda” but do not explain the complex bureaucracy that builds and maintains this ideological front. Hong Kong-based investigative journalism media The Initium recently published an in-depth report on the transformation of the CCP Publicity Department." Global Voices has shared a partial translation of the Chinese report.
  • Indian city set to install 30 smart-boards to publicly display city data, ads.Combiatore, India is set to install 30 screens around the city that show city corporation data including pollution levels, real-time traffic data, rules and regulatory information and more. The screens will also be used to generate revenue by displaying ads. (Times of India)
  • South Africa swiftly moved against journalist following publication of book alleging wrongdoing by President. "When Jacques Pauw published a new book accusing South African President Jacob Zuma of failing to declare all his income and a spy unit of squandering taxpayer money, the State Security Agency moved with unusual speed — not against the alleged wrongdoers, but the author." (Bloomberg)


  • 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.
  • November 14th: Priceless? A New Way to Estimate the Cost of Opening Government in Washington, DC. "Members and friends of the Open Gov Hub are invited to join a panel and report launch event for Priceless? A New Framework for Estimating the Cost of Open Government Reforms, which presents a brand new way to understand and evaluate open government efforts." 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM EST. Learn more 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 and check out the agenda right here.
  • November 30th: In Hack We Trust Congressional Hackathon in Washington, DC. "The event will bring together a bipartisan group of Members of Congress, Congressional staff, Legislative Branch agency staff, open government and transparency advocates, civic hackers, and developers from digital companies to explore the role of digital platforms in the legislative process. Discussions will range from data transparency, constituent services, public correspondence, social media, committee hearings and the broader legislative process." 2:00 – 6:00 PM EST. Learn more and register to attend here
  • December 6th – 7th: HHS Opioid Code-A-Thon in Washington, DC. "Calling all computer programmers, public health experts, data scientists, researchers, and innovators! We need your help to develop data-driven solutions to combat the opioid epidemic, building on HHS’ five-part strategy." Learn more here.


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