Today in OpenGov: Dissolving foundations


In today's edition, the Trump Foundation starts to meet its end, the FCC plans to roll back net neutrality, now is the time to suggest improvements to the U.S. City Open Data Census, and more. 

Meanwhile, Sunlight is at the Open Government Partnership's summit for the Americas in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sunlight's deputy director Alex Howard will be discussing the importance of open civic space, while open cities analyst Katya Abazajian will be speaking on open government in cities. If you’re not in Argentina, no worries: You can follow @OGPArgentina for live updates and photos throughout the day and watch the livestream, below.


Donald Trump presenting a check from his foundation. 
  • Trump Foundation reimbursed by Trump golf course, confirms intentions to dissolve, once New York Attorney General investigation wraps up. David A. Fahrenthold reports, "One of President Trump’s golf courses paid back more than $158,000 to Trump’s charitable foundation this year, reimbursing the charity for money that had been used to settle a lawsuit against the club, according to a new tax filing. The March 2017 payment came after New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat, launched an investigation into how the Donald J. Trump Foundation collects and disburses funds. The inquiry is ongoing." (Washington Post) The New York Times explains, "After Mr. Trump won, he directed his lawyers to begin the process of closing the foundation to avoid conflicts of interest.” The President didn't, however, disclose his taxes and divest from hundreds of other conflicts
  • President Trump's potential pick for the number two job at the Census Department sparks concern. "The Trump administration is leaning toward naming Thomas Brunell, a Texas professor with no government experience, to the top operational job at the U.S. Census Bureau, according to two people who have been briefed on the Bureau’s plans." According to this report by Danny Vinik and Andrew Restuccia, "Brunell was under consideration over the summer for the Senate-confirmable job of Census Director, but the administration declined to nominate him after receiving pushback from Capitol Hill." The number two job is not subject to a Senate confirmation. Additionally, external Census watchdogs have expressed concern over the potential appointment. (POLITICO)
  • Trump Organization launches online store to peddle branded merchandise, potentially profit off presidency. "The Trump Organization recently started a website,, to sell Trump-branded merchandise such as T-shirts, baseball caps and coin banks. It's not to be confused with Trump's other website, That site sells a lot of the same kind of merchandise, but its profits flow to Trump's presidential campaign. By contrast, the profits from go to the Trump Organization, which is managed by Trump's two older sons, Eric and Donald Jr., but still owned by the president himself." (NPR)
  • Meetings between Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and Hungarian officials draw scrutiny. "Travels by Trump campaign adviser Carter Page to meet with senior officials in Hungary during the 2016 presidential election are being closely examined by congressional investigators, given the increasingly close ties between Hungary and Russia and the role of the country as a hub for Russian intelligence activity." (ABC News)
  • Is DHS slow-walking the release of an IG report on Trump's travel ban? The department's Inspector General seems to think so. Josh Gerstein, Ted Hesson, and Seung Min Kim report, the "Department of Homeland Security's official watchdog is accusing his own agency of slow-walking the public release of a report about confusion that ensued earlier this year after President Donald Trump issued his first travel ban executive order." Yesterday, Inspector General John Roth, told Congress "his 87-page report was sent to DHS leadership Oct. 6, but officials have declined to authorize its release over the past six weeks." (POLITICO)

washington watch

  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's plans to roll back net neutrality. "Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will reveal plans to his fellow commissioners on Tuesday to fully dismantle the agency's Obama-era net neutrality regulations, people familiar with the plans said, in a major victory for the telecom industry in the long-running policy debate." The proposal will receive a vote next month. (POLITICO) The Sunlight Foundation supports net neutrality and we are disappointed the FCC may move to dismantle the current rules. 
  • FBI's most recent crime report contains significantly less data than previous iterations. "Every year, the FBI releases a report that is considered the gold standard for tracking crime statistics in the United States: the Crime in the United States report, a collection of crime statistics gathered from over 18,000 law-enforcement agencies in cities around the country. But according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, the 2016 Crime in the United States report — the first released under President Trump’s administration — contains close to 70 percent fewer data tables 1 than the 2015 version did, a removal that could affect analysts’ understanding of crime trends in the country." (FiveThirtyEight) Our take? It's a mistake to release less open data than before. Good public policy is based on good public evidence. 
  • Farmers present data protection arguments to Senate Committee. "Sensors, smart equipment and other new technologies are revolutionizing the way agricultural data is collected and analyzed, which can make operations more efficient, improve forecasting and allow for more sustainable practices. However, the rise in data collection and sharing is now raising questions about the control of farm-related data and the agreements between farmers and big ag companies. Some experts say Congress needs to play a role." As Ben Berliner reports, Senators heard arguments from agricultural experts concerned about farmers' ability to control their own data while relying on outside technology. (Federal Computer Week)

states and cities

A screenshot from the U.S. City Open Data Census.
  • Changes are coming to the U.S. City Open Data Census. Sunlight's Open Cities team shared the news, writing "Open Knowledge International has been making upgrades to the technical platform that supports the U.S. City Open Data Census (and dozens of similar projects around the world). One consequence of the changes they have been working on is that starting in January, the Census site will only show submissions from 2018 and beyond. The old data will still be available on an archived site." This is a great opportunity to improve the Census as well as the way your city is represented in it. Is there a way we could change the Census questions to better capture what’s happening in your city? If so, send us your ideas. Learn more on the Sunlight Foundation blog. 
  • The New York City Council has a new legislative API. "The Legistar Web API for New York City is now available for read access by the public. In Council 2.0, the Council’s technology and engagement roadmap, we outlined different ways to increase access and transparency to our legislative information. Making the NYC Legistar API open to the public will allow individuals to create tools and platforms that pull directly from this data source, ensuring increased accuracy and reliability." You can learn more here. Thanks to Brad Lander for sharing the news
  • What can we learn about public data from water infrastructure? Patrick Atwater asks, "Why not manage public data like water — a public resource required for all life? We too quickly forget that “legacy” institutions like public water utilities were radical innovations for their time. For most of the 19th century, clean water was a luxury. The concept of a public utility enabled (near) ubiquitous access to clean drinking water and the creation of infrastructure that safeguarded water supplies for future generations. California’s water industry in particular has a long history of pioneering everything from man-made aqueducts that can be seen from space to advanced recycled water technologies. Perhaps most importantly, public water utilities provide the institutional structure to ensure that a vital public resource is stewarded for the benefit of everyone." (Civicist)
  • Access to video of public meetings varies across Washington State. Wendy Culverwell explores how different local government's across the state use the transparency tool, noting that you "won’t find Game of Thrones-style intrigue on government television, but for a segment of the population, it is a lifeline to keeping up with local decision-makers." (Government Technology)


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