Today in OpenGov: Probing questions


In today's edition, we focus on the importance of community building for data innovation, President Trump's allies send mixed messages, foreign influence is big, nonpartisan business in Washington, and much more.

states and cities

Diverse ideas and perspectives from residents are the most powerful opportunities for data innovation. Above: participants at Civic Hack Night in Miami, Florida. Photo via The New Tropic.
  • On U.S. Data Innovation Day, we celebrate the importance of community building. Sunlight's Open Cities team explained that what they're "most excited about in data innovation, however, isn’t a new feature or device. We’re most excited about an idea that’s been around for a long time: bringing open government data to the people. That doesn’t necessarily require new infrastructure or connecting more devices to the Internet. Truly open government requires the hard, ongoing work of building trust, communications, and transparency between government staff and the residents they serve." (The Sunlight Foundation)
  • New portal aims to improve access to information in New Jersey. OPRAmachine, the first implementation of the Alaveteli platform, to operate purely at the state and local level, "allows citizens to request information from state and local governmental agencies in New Jersey, under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA)." (mySociety)
  • Elsewhere in New Jersey, transit authority denies documents to safety probe by state legislature. "New Jersey Transit is suppressing internal documents subpoenaed by state legislators investigating how the once-model commuter system fell into a safety and financial crisis." (Bloomberg)
  • Investigation finds state lawmakers regularly blurring the lines between public and personal. "State lawmakers around the country have introduced and supported policies that directly and indirectly help their own businesses, their employers and sometimes their personal finances, according to an analysis of disclosure forms and legislative votes by the Center for Public Integrity and The Associated Press." (Center for Public Integrity)


  • Following successful tax push, a Trump-tied nonprofit advocacy group will run ads in support of his biggest GOP critics. "A nonprofit advocacy group loyal to Donald Trump is spending money to praise two of the president’s most prominent Republican adversaries: Jeff Flake and John McCain. America First Policies will air TV ads to thank the two Arizona senators, and Maine Sen. Susan Collins, for supporting the tax overhaul bill that cleared the Senate last week." (BuzzFeed)
  • Critics of Mueller Russia probe use newly released documents to push their argument. One member of Robert Mueller's investigative team was dismissed over the summer after sending anti-Trump text messages. Another praised acting Attorney General Sally Yates for standing up to the President in newly released emails. Critics of Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election are using both revelations to forward their arguments that the probe is nothing more than a fishing trip compromised by Democrats. POLITICO and The Hill have the full story and analysis.  
  • Commercial real estate industry stands to gain big from tax reform. While many industries received special attention in the Senate and House tax reform bills, "perhaps the biggest winner is the industry where President Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, made their millions: commercial real estate," report Patricia Cohen and Jesse Drucker. (New York Times)
  • Trump's nominee for Ambassador to Singapore frozen over Russia probe questions. "A Trump ambassador nomination appeared to be in jeopardy after lawmakers on both sides publicly questioned whether she told the truth to a Senate committee about former Trump aide Michael Flynn’s contacts with a Russian official." K.T. McFarland was nominated for the post after serving as a national security advisor during President Trump's transition and in the White House. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Trump's "voter fraud" commission wants to build a national voter database. Security experts don't think that's a very good idea. "More than a half-dozen technology experts and former national security officials filed an amicus brief Tuesday urging a federal court to halt the collection of voter information for a planned government database." (Washington Post)

washington watch

Cash from foreign lobbyists flowed freely to candidates from both parties. 
  • Foreign influence is a big, open, bipartisan business in Washington. "Since Donald Trump won the presidency, concerns about whether Russia played a hidden role in the 2016 election have simmered, and lawmakers have warned about the prospect of stealth foreign influence over American politics. But data compiled by International Business Times and MapLight show that foreign influence is hardly confined to the shadows. It’s a big, open, bipartisan business, with foreign government lobbyists delivering millions of dollars of campaign cash to elected officials in Washington." (International Business Times)
  • Chief Data Officers aren't just tech geeks. "Some chief data officers are working with management issues and people more than they're working with information technology, which gives them important ties to both worlds, according to experts." (Federal Computer Week)
  • Lack of data sharing between military and civilian justice systems is a widespread problem. "The military justice system's failure to share critical information with civilian law enforcement agencies is far more rampant than initially believed, the Pentagon's independent watchdog has found — in some cases nearly a third of the time." (POLITICO)
  • How big data technology is changing gerrymandering. "Politicians have been redrawing districts to benefit their own political parties—a tactic known as Gerrymandering—since the 1970s. But recently, technology has enabled politicians to choose their voters more strategically than ever before." Learn more in this video from The Atlantic

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