Today in OpenGov: The House gets a bit more Honest


In today's edition, the Honest Ads Act gains support, a Judge tells the Trump Organization to hold onto records as part of an emoluments case, local officials are arrested for violating public records laws, and more. 

washington watch

Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Mark Warner (D-VA) introduce the Honest Ads Act. Image via PFAW.
  • Honest Ads Act picks up two new bipartisan cosponsors. William Gray shared the news that "New Jersey Republican Rep. Leonard Lance and Maryland Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes joined in sponsoring the bipartisan, bicameral legislation to begin protecting U.S. politics from foreign interference. This brings the total number of sponsors of the bill to 12." (Issue One)
  • Environmental Protection Agency sued over employee use of encrypted messaging. "A lawsuit filed Tuesday claims the Environmental Protection Agency failed to comply with an open-records request for documents regarding employees’ use of the encrypted messaging app Signal. The lawsuit is the second filed by the Cause of Action Institute against the EPA following a series of Freedom of Information Act requests the conservative legal transparency group made after reports surfaced earlier this year that federal employees were using apps like Signal on government devices to criticize Trump policies." (NextGov) Our take? Civil servants and elected officials can and should use encryption to protect sensitive data and messages exchanged doing the public’s business, but only if those messaging platforms and apps support archiving those public records.
  • Rep. Robert Brady (D-PA), under investigation for bribery, appears to escape most serious charges as statute of limitations hits. "In court filings, prosecutors have accused his campaign of illegally paying a 2012 primary challenger to drop out of the race, while a trickle of indictments – first of that campaign rival, then, last month, of two of Brady’s top political aides – appeared to signal that agents were closing in…According to sources familiar with the investigation, Justice Department lawyers on Sunday let lapse the latest in a series of agreements Brady had signed extending the period of time in which he could be charged." (Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • New study finds a range of issues with public comments submitted to the  Federal Communications Commission about net neutrality. Using open data from the FCC API, the Pew Internet Research Center analyzed the latest round of net neutrality comments. They found inaccuracies, duplicates, and a lack of due diligence verifying the email of commenters. You can read the full report here
  • Top Secret Army intelligence files discovered unprotected on public web server. "A big trove of top-secret files from an Army intelligence project was left on a public web server with no password protection, open to anyone who cared to look, the Silicon Valley firm UpGuard said Tuesday." (Government Technology)


  • In emolumental case, Trump businesses must retain records to comply with subpoenas. "Twenty-three Trump businesses including his Mar-a-Lago Club must retain records after they receive subpoenas from the attorneys general in Maryland and the District of Columbia as part of a lawsuit accusing the president of profiting from his office." President Trump's attorney's have asked for the case to be thrown out and oral arguments are scheduled for January 25, according to this report by Andrew M. Harris. (Bloomberg)
  • Groups sue government for records detailing surveillance of journalists. Trevor Timm explains how the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Freedom of the Press Foundation are trying to understand the restraints placed on the government's efforts to track journalists. He writes, "on Wednesday, we filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Justice Department and several intelligence agencies, demanding records revealing how the government collects information on journalists and targets them with surveillance." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • Office of Special Counsel looking into accusations that Kellyanne Conway violated the Hatch Act. "The U.S. Office of Special Counsel is opening a case file to address allegations that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway violated federal law when she made comments about GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore's Democratic challenger." Max Greenwood reports the move comes after "Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel last week alleging that Conway violated the Hatch Act, a decades-old law prohibiting federal employees from using their offices to campaign for or against political candidates." (The Hill)
  • Is President Trump trying to circumvent the Senate by quietly removing the "acting" designation from various agency heads? "Across the government, acting directors who were installed without Senate approval are quietly dropping the “acting” title from their name, suggesting they have every intention of overstaying their legal welcome." David Dyen explains how the Trump administration may be taking advantage of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act. (The Intercept)

states and cities

  • What can mayors learn from Washington, DC's "policy lab"? Andrew Feldman and Stephen Goldsmith explain the potential benefits. "You might have heard recently about a large study of body-worn police cameras in Washington, D.C,. that shed new light on the cameras' effects. The findings — that the cameras had little impact on police or civilian behavior — were important, but there's a broader, equally valuable insight for mayors wanting to improve city services: The study was conducted by a group of scientists embedded within the mayor's office, called The Lab @ DC. We think every mayor should consider building a similar type of applied scientific team." (Governing)
  • Florida county commissioners arrested for public records law violations. "Two Martin County commissioners, and one former Martin County commissioner were arrested Tuesday for violating public records law, confirmed a spokeswoman with Martin County Sheriff’s Office." (CBS 12 via NFOIC
  • Austin, TX city council violated the open meetings act at least twice in the last year. "In the last year, two separate judges have ruled against the city of Austin for violating the Open Meetings Act." Most recently, according to this report by Kylie McGivern "Judge Scott Jenkins ruled Austin City Council’s vote on Nov. 10, 2016 violated the Open Meetings Act by failing to give proper notice of the item they were voting on." (KXAN via NFOIC)

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