Today in OpenGov: Withdrawn


In today's edition, President Trump's controversial Census pick withdraws from consideration, a new tool tries to make it easier to call Congress, global threats to journalism, open data expansion in Delaware, and more.  


Illustration: Mother Jones.
  • President Trump's controversial pick for the number two spot at the Census withdraws from consideration. "The Trump administration’s controversial pick to run the 2020 census has withdrawn from consideration to be deputy director of the US Census Bureau, according to sources close to the bureau…Brunell’s appointment had raised grave fears among civil rights advocates that the 2020 census would not accurately count minority communities and would be manipulated by the Trump administration to give Republican areas more political representation and federal funding than Democratic ones." (Mother Jones) Our take? President Trump should now appoint a nonpartisan civil servant as the deputy director of the U.S. Census Bureau and fully fund the vital program. 
  • President Trump's budget, infrastructure plan released as massive PDFs. Some ancillary budget data is open. Yesterday, the White House published a "legislative outline for rebuilding infrastructure" and the President's budget request online as immense PDF files. They made selected appendices and tables from the budget available as open data. 
  • President Trump's political organizations continue to spend big at his properties. "President Donald J. Trump’s campaign continued to spend big at Trump hotels, restaurants and the iconic Trump Tower, more than any other political committee. Republican groups spent a little over $1 million at Trump properties in 2017. Of that, almost 70 percent was from Trump’s own campaign and his joint fundraising committees." (Bloomberg)
  • VA Inspector General expected to knock Secretary Shulkin for improprieties during European Trip. "Department of Veterans Affairs investigators are poised to claim Secretary David Shulkin improperly accepted Wimbledon tickets and used taxpayers' money to pay his wife's airfare during a European trip last summer — findings Shulkin’s lawyers are blasting as questionable and unfair." (USA Today)
  • OMB re-launches performance data website with renewed focus on IT modernization. "As the Trump administration issued its budget request for fiscal 2019 on Monday, the Office of Management and Budget quietly re-launched the website with a new focus on IT modernization as a key driver to the White House’s strategy for federal reform. The relaunch comes after OMB put an operational pause on — the data-driven central website for tracking cross-agency priorities in the President’s Management Agenda — last summer in preparation for its government reorganization plans." (FedScoop)

washington watch

  • New tool aims to make it easier for Congress to keep track of their voicemail. Following up on their recent investigation, From Voicemail to Votes, the OpenGov Foundation is preparing to launch a new tool that will "radically improve phone based engagement between citizens and their elected officials in Congress." According to this report by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier, the tool "captures a voicemail’s metadata, transcribes the message using Google and inserts the call directly into the office’s constituent management system, where it is then ready for a response." (FedScoop)
  • How opioid makers funneled millions to advocacy groups who promoted their painkillers. "Companies selling some of the most lucrative prescription painkillers funneled millions of dollars to advocacy groups that in turn promoted the medications’ use, according to a report released Monday by a U.S. senator. The investigation by Missouri’s Sen. Claire McCaskill sheds light on the opioid industry’s ability to shape public opinion and raises questions about its role in an overdose epidemic that has claimed hundreds of thousands of American lives." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • DACA recipients have been lobbying lawmakers since late last year. This motion graphic company explores how "DACA recipients have been lobbying lawmakers on Capitol Hill since Thanksgiving in hopes of securing permanent legal status." (The Washington Post)
  • Your semi-regular reminder that Senate candidates still file their campaign finance reports on paper. The Federal Election Commission has recommended the Senate modernize filing campaign finance reports since 2000. They have done so again this year. Mandatory e-filing would save taxpayers an estimated $876,000 dollars annually and improve transparency. 50 Senators now support a bill to go digital. 

around the world

In 2017, the number of journalists imprisoned worldwide hit a record for the second year in a row, with 262 behind bars. One of several data visualizations designed by Christie Chisholm.
  • Highlighting a dangerous year for journalists. The Columbia Journalism Review is out with a new analysis, One Dangerous Year, that breaks down threats to journalists last year. The number of arrests, jailings, and killings was on the rise around the world. 
  • South African President Jacob Zuma asked to step down. "South Africa's ruling ANC party has voted to 'recall' President Jacob Zuma following a drawn-out battle to convince him to step down voluntarily over allegations of corruption…However, it was not immediately clear whether Zuma would relinquish power or try to hang on despite losing the confidence of his party." (NPR)
  • Former top Chinese politician to face trial for bribery. "China’s once-powerful politician Sun Zhengcai is to stand trial for bribery, state media announced, moving a step closer to the conclusion of a case that has brought down one of the country’s political elite." (Bloomberg)
  • Unilever threatens to pull ads from social media over hate speech, fake news. "Unilever, one of the world’s largest advertisers, may stop buying advertising on social networks like Facebook or Google if these tech companies don’t stop helping to spread hate speech and create divisions in society, according to a senior company executive." (POLITICO)

states and cities

Joined by state Chief Information Officer James Collins, standing at center, and other officials, Delaware Gov. John Carney, seated, signs Executive Order 18 on Feb. 12. Via the Office of the Governor. 
  • Delaware Governor expands Open Data Council, pushes for website improvements. "Two years after Delaware established its Open Data Council and empowered it to guide policy behind the state’s open data portal, Gov. John Carney has expanded the group and given members a hard deadline to release more public information." (Government Technology)
  • Cary, North Carolina is seeking feedback on its open data policy. The comment period is open until March 5th. You can read the draft policy and share your feedback via the Madison platform. 
  • Chair of the D.C. Open Government Coalition's "government relations" board weighs in on clash between city open government bodies.  In a letter to D.C. Council Member Charles Allen, Robert Becker rejected the D.C. Board of Ethics and Government Accountability's (BEGA) push for more control over the D.C. Open Government Office, arguing instead that the Open Government Office should be given greater independence. You can read the full letter here.


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