Today in OpenGov: Subpoenas


Quote of the day: “Only truth and transparency can guarantee freedom.” – Senator John McCain (R-AZ), writing in the Washington Post against President Trump's continued attacks on the free press. Our take? The senior senator from Arizona’s call for Congress to defend press freedom as a core American value is both welcome & long overdue. The silence in the US Senate & House after Greg Gianforte assaulted Ben C Jacobs in May 2017 was deafening. 

Read on for the rest of the days open government news including, piloting our ideas around tactical data engagement, a subpoena for Stephen Bannon, a meeting of the FOIA Advisory Committee, and more. 

states and cities

A construction project in Glendale, Arizona.
  • Testing out Sunlight's Tactical Data Engagement framework in the real world. The Sunlight Open Cities Team shared their experience working with Glendale Arizona to pilot the Tactical Data Engagement model and "improve access to and usability of Development Services information." As the team explained, they hope to "to confirm our framework’s relevance to city open data goals, iteratively improve the TDE model to ensure our process is replicable and intuitive enough for cities to use on their own, and to develop new case studies to demonstrate typical open data use cases and the types of tactical approaches that we believe will facilitate the community use of data." You can read the full pilot report here. (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Florida hires its first ever geographic information officer. "The state of Florida, believed to have been one of just two states without a central geographic information system (GIS) coordinating authority, hired its first-ever geographic information officer (GIO) late last year and has planned an ambitious first year under her enterprise-level leadership." (Government Technology)
  • How asking for public records could get you sued. C.J Ciaramella explores the "reverse FOIA" phenomenon, "a disturbing trend in recent years of local governments filing suits against citizens to keep their doings secret…Unlike typical government stonewalling tactics, which put the onus on requesters to sue for records, these lawsuits instead make the information seekers bear the costs and time of going to trial to defend their right to know what their government is doing. This is an overt use of courts to drag more of the public business back into the shadows and enforce a type of sub rosa censorship." (Reason)
  • Los Angeles, California may move towards more open and useful education data. "Tuesday, the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education will vote on a resolution by Board Vice President Nick Melvoin to share the district’s data in an accessible, navigable, and dynamic public platform for the first time. This policy would move LAUSD in the right direction — creating a one stop shop data portal that better centralizes data and promotes transparency in order for parents and the general public to hold the district accountable for closing opportunity and achievement gaps." (Pasadena Star-News)


  • New report highlights how foreign governments, trade groups, companies, and more are spending at Trump properties. In its new report, Presidency For Sale, "Public Citizen has documented…64 instances of trade groups, companies, religious groups, charities, foreign governments, interest groups, and political candidates staying in Trump properties or having events there. Examples range from the American Petroleum Institute to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association to a conference for the vaping industry." The report identifies 35 political candidates or organizations, four foreign governments, 16 trade or interest groups, and more. (Public Citizen)
  • Mueller probe issues grand jury subpoena to Stephen Bannon. "Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, was subpoenaed last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, to testify before a grand jury as part of the investigation into possible links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter." It is the first known instance Mueller issuing a grand jury subpoena to a member of Trump's inner circle. (New York Times)
  • President Trump's health addressed in public briefing, results of physical posted online. Dr. Ronny Jackson, Director of the White House Medical Unit, answered questions today regarding the health of President Trump, which he assessed as excellent. The White House also posted the results of the President's physical online. David A. Graham commented on the unprecedented openness, writing that "never before has the Trump White House shown such transparency. There have been masquerades at it—stacks of paper arrayed when the president announced his supposed divestment plan, for example—but never the real thing." Of course, Graham continued, "the sudden outbreak of openness raises questions of its own. Why can’t the administration always be this forthright? In particular, why can’t it be more open about the president’s finances?" (The Atlantic)

washington watch

  • States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal. "Twenty-two state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over the agency's repeal of its net neutrality rules." (The Hill)
  • Meanwhile, 50 Senators have signed on to a bill that would reverse the FCC's decision. "A Senate bill to restore the recently repealed net neutrality rules now has support from 50 of 100 senators and would pass if one more Republican backs the effort. The measure has backing from all 49 members of the Senate Democratic caucus, including 47 Democrats and two independents who caucus with Democrats. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) is the only Republican to support the bill so far, but Democrats are trying to secure one more Republican vote." If it makes it through the Senate, the measure is unlikely to succeed in the House. (Ars Technica)
  • Controversial surveillance bill crosses major hurdle in the Senate. "A hotly debated surveillance bill Tuesday night moved one step closer to a final vote, barely clearing a key procedural Senate hurdle despite bipartisan opposition that nearly scuttled the vote. The 60-38 vote to invoke cloture on the legislation — which would extend the powerful spying tools authorized under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — moves to limit debate over the proposal and sets up lawmakers for a final vote Wednesday or Thursday." (POLITICO) Our take? We continue to oppose the U.S. government unconstitutionally collecting Americans’ communications without a warrant or individualized approval from a judge. The bill being considered by the Senate would not fix the problem. 
  • The FOIA Advisory Committee held its first meeting of 2018 yesterday. We covered the meeting, which was open to the public and streamed live online, on our Twitter page. The meeting included discussion of proactive disclosure priorities, recommendations on publishing FOIA logs, 508 compliance, efficiency, search capabilities, and more. For more, including some recommendations from Sunlight, read our comments
  • Senators introduce a bill requiring report by intelligence agencies on foreign efforts to influence US elections. "A new Senate bill would require America's spy bosses to report within one month of a federal election on whether a foreign power had interfered with it. That's part of a proposal by Florida Republican Marco Rubio and Maryland Democrat Chris Van Hollen, who say Congress must do more to safeguard elections following the attack by Russia on the presidential race in 2016." (NPR)


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