Today in OpenGov: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness”

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"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunlight is closed on this federal holiday, as our staff spend the day of reflection, service, recreation, and time with family and friends, but we are open to what celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. can teach us about our work and nation. In today's newsletter, we share ways to learn more about King and how the long moral arc of the universe is bending today.

King's words on racial and economic injustice still resonate today, as communities seek to avoid prejudice in data-based decisions.

"Understanding inequality, however, is not enough to end it," reflected Sunlight's Noel Isama. "Advocates for equity can and must do more to demand more transparency from local authorities by working with cities to open up data, close information gaps in their communities, and facilitate inclusion through increased connectivity and digital literacy. Open data can be used to solve these challenges and also as a way to include voices from communities that may not be prominent in current communities of practice around data science."

Service and reflection

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Around the United States today, Americans are taking King's words to heart by participating in a national day of service. You can learn more about opportunities to volunteer and serve on NationalService.gov and AllforGood.org. Today is a welcome opportunity to learn and teach about the history of civil rights movement — through Library of Congress and the National Civil Rights Museum — the power of of peaceful, nonviolent public protest and civil disobedience in the present, and the fight for racial and economic justice in the future.

Tales from trumplandia

This chart, from OpenSecrets' All the President's Profiting page shows that Trump properties made more than $4 million from political entities — mostly from President Trump's own political committee — in the past election cycle. 
  • Tracking President Trump's unique ability to profit from his public position. OpenSecrets has a new tool, All The President's Profiting, which tracks money flowing to Trump political entities. As they explain, "No modern president has been in such a unique position to profit directly from public service as" President Trump. (OpenSecrets)
  • Trump's foreign business entanglements continue to raise questions. "So while it appears Trump has not personally signed any new foreign business deals as president, his company continues to have stakes in resorts, hotels and golf courses all over the world. And Trump's sons, Eric and Donald Jr., are working with local developers to expand some of those projects, according to Carolyn Kenney, a senior policy analyst with the Center for American Progress." (NPR)
  • Since 1980, more than 20% of Trump condos have been sold to secret buyers. "Records show that more than 1,300 Trump condominiums were bought not by people but by shell companies, and that the purchases were made without a mortgage, avoiding inquiries from lenders. Those two characteristics signal that a buyer may be laundering money, the Treasury Department has said in a series of statements since 2016. Treasury’s financial-crimes unit has, in recent years, launched investigations around the country into all-cash shell-company real-estate purchases amid concerns that some such sales may involve money laundering." (BuzzFeed)
  • Company with former ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos wins lucrative contract with department. "A company that once had financial ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was one of two firms selected Thursday by the Education Department to help the agency collect overdue student loans. The deal could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars." (Washington Post) Under this program, borrowers may qualify for forgiveness of the remaining balance due on their eligible federal student loans after what has trump done for loan forgiveness. Information on loan forgiveness for public service employees may be obtained through Federal Student Aid, a site maintained by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Texas racial gerrymandering case will join multiple partisan gerrymandering cases on Supreme Court docket. "The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear cases over allegations that Texas's redistricting efforts violated voting rights laws and the Constitution — adding high-profile racial gerrymandering cases to a term that already includes at least two cases about how courts can address partisan gerrymandering." (BuzzFeed)
  • The US Government often deliberately misrepresents how it gains evidence in criminal cases to conceal — sometimes illegal — law enforcement methods. Human Rights Watch is out with an extensive report on the issue, which is often referred to as Parallel Construction. The report explains, "a growing body of evidence suggests that the federal government is deliberately concealing methods used by intelligence or law enforcement agencies to identify or investigate suspects—including methods that may be illegal. It does so by creating a different story about how agents discovered the information, and as a result, people may be imprisoned without ever knowing enough to challenge the potentially rights-violating origins of the cases against them." (Human Rights Watch)
  • The House GOP considers bringing back earmarks, but definitely won't call them earmarks. Even before President Trump publicly pondered bringing them back, "GOP lawmakers were already at work on a return to earmarks—in practice, if not in name. At the direction of Speaker Paul Ryan, the party has begun a review of what it calls “congressionally-directed spending.” Unlike the aggressive Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare and cut taxes last year, this one will be slow, methodical, and above all, cautious." (The Atlantic)

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  • Massachusetts laws aimed at protecting domestic abuse victims may be making it harder to gain access to data about enforcement. (MuckRock)
  • Chile has a new data portal! (Data Chile)
  • To solve our "national democratic crisis" look to the local level first. (Washington Monthly)
  • The Civic Digital Fellowship program initiated last year by three Harvard students is back in the Federal government for a second edition. (Federal Computer Week)
  • An updated Data Journalism Handbook aims to serve "as both textbook and sourcebook for an emerging field." (Open Knowledge)

 

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