Today in OpenGov: Giving thanks for White House visitor logs
Editor's note: No newsletter tomorrow, as we'll be off celebrating Thanksgiving, but you can expect all of the day's open government news back in your inbox on Friday.
In the meantime, in today's edition ProPublica and Property of the People got a hold of White House visitor records from the first year of the Trump administration, investigations abound in Washington, fake news can be a life or death matter in Myanmar, and more.
White House Visitor Logs
Yesterday, ProPublica posted White House visitor records from the first 230 days of the Trump Administration. As Derek Kravitz, Leora Smith, and Al Shaw explain "The Trump White House tried to block public access to visitor logs of five federal offices working directly for the president even though they were subject to public disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act. Property of the People, a Washington-based transparency group, successfully sued the administration to release the data and provided the documents to ProPublica."
- Who's dropping in on OMB Director Mick Mulvaney? ProPublic has already begun digging into the logs, starting with Justin Elliot's breakdown of visitors to the Office of Management and Budget director. He writes, "One of President Donald Trump’s top cabinet officials has met with a long list of lobbyists, corporate executives and wealthy people with business interests before the government, according to calendars the Trump administration fought to keep secret." (ProPublica)
- Do you have more information about any meetings included in the logs or who attended them? You can get in touch with ProPublica at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Signal at (573) 239-7440.
- The FBI is reading Rep. Roberty Brady's (D-PA) emails as bribery probe enters new phase. Jeremy Roebuck has the latest in this ongoing saga, "In their clearest language to date, federal authorities have accused U.S. Rep. Robert Brady of leading a criminal conspiracy to hide a $90,000 payment they say he made to persuade a 2012 primary opponent to drop out of the race, newly unsealed court records show." The details emerged in a newly unsealed affidavit filed to persuade a judge to give federal investigators a warrant to search Brady's emails. The investigation "has already elicited a guilty plea from Brady’s one-time challenger, former Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Jimmie Moore, and led to indictments against Brady aides Ken Smukler and Donald “D.A.” Jones." (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- The Interior Department Inspector General advances probe into Secretary Ryan Zinke's travel. Charles Clark has the latest update in the ongoing probe into the Interior Secretary's travel explaining that, "fortified with new powers of access, the Inspector General’s Office at the Interior Department is obtaining records related to Secretary Ryan Zinke’s controversial travel schedule, a probe that recently widened to include the political activities of his wife, Lolita Zinke." (Government Executive) Meanwhile, the Federal Election Commission will look into Zinke's leadership PAC. "The Federal Election Commission is asking a leadership PAC previously affiliated with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to provide more details about its direct mail spending and to account for a $200,000 discrepancy in its account, among other issues in its most recent campaign finance report." (POLITICO)
- FCC net neutrality rollback will include block on states imposing their own regulations. "In addition to ditching its own net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission also plans to tell state and local governments that they cannot impose local laws regulating broadband service." (Ars Technica) Why do we support net neutrality? An open internet with strong net neutrality rules is crucial for making public information accessible to the public.
- White House Office of Science and Technology Policy gets a Twitter handle, what it really needs is a leader. "In its 41-year-old history as the White House hub of innovation, the Office of Science and Technology Policy has never gone this long without a leader or official mandate. The science office, which takes up half of the fourth floor of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, has a fleet of empty desks…But nine months into his administration, there's no clear indication that the president is close to naming a science adviser who will inform his policymaking, though that's the mission that the OSTP has played since its founding in 1976 by President Gerald Ford." (CBS News)
- Congress needs to be more transparent about sexual harassment settlements. C.J. Ciaramella comments on the recent BuzzFeed report that "the office of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) paid $27,000 to settle a previously undisclosed sexual harassment complaint against the lawmaker. " He writes, the "story is notable not just for the allegations against a powerful member of Congress, but for shedding light on the highly opaque process through which the House of Representatives handles such settlements—and keeps them concealed." (Reason) We agree. Congress should be much more transparent about sexual harassment in the people's house.
around the world
- Where fake news is a matter of life and death. "Misinformation distributed by social platforms like Facebook has almost become old news in the United States, thanks to all the attention focused on Russian troll armies trying to influence the 2016 presidential election. But in some countries such as Myanmar, “fake news” doesn’t just interfere with people’s views about who to vote for—it leads to people being arrested, jailed, and in some cases even killed. And Facebook doesn’t seem to be doing a lot about it." (Columbia Journalism Review)
- Robert Mugabe officially resigns as President of Zimbabwe, former deputy will assume power. "Zimbabwe is turning its weary eyes to Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man known as the crocodile who was Robert Mugabe’s right-hand man for much of his 37-year rule." (Bloomberg)
- Pro-Brexit campaign will be investigated by the U.K. election watchdog. "Vote Leave is under investigation by the Electoral Commission over whether it breached the £7m EU referendum spending limit, with allegations being made that it channelled funds for a social Brexit media campaign via £625,000 in donations to a student." (The Guardian)
- In wake of Paradise Papers, calls for public country-by-country reporting (CBCR) grow. Stephen Abbott Pugh explains, "CBCR requires that corporations publish information about their economic activities in all of the countries where they operate. This includes information on the taxes they pay, the number of people they employ and the profits they report." (Open Knowledge)
- 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.
- December 14: Democracy Defenders in Dialogue from 4:30 – 6:00 pm in Washington, DC. "The Open Gov Hub, Global Integrity, Sunlight Foundation, and Transparency International are pleased to present this launch event for the new Defending Democracy: Lessons from Around the World program. Join us to learn from powerful efforts to uncover and counter the international linkages between corruption and kleptocracy across boundaries/ borders, as we hear from visiting civil society leaders from Russia and Tunisia and leaders from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which was heavily involved in the recent Paradise Papers leak." Learn more and register to attend here.
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