In today's edition, we join a coalition calling for presidential inauguration transparency, the revolving door speeds up, French President Emmanuel Macron removes the press from his house, we highlight some upcoming events, and more.
- Sunlight joins a coalition calling for presidential inaugural committee transparency. We joined a broad coalition of civic advocates & academics calling for more transparency for presidential inaugural committees. The public should know how much is raised, from who, how donations are used, and where leftover funds are spent. The coalition wrote in support of the recently introduced Presidential Inaugural Committee Oversight Act. Read the full letter via Public Citizen.
- EPA back tracks on explanation for Scott Pruitt's First Class travel habit. "EPA on Wednesday retracted its claim that Administrator Scott Pruitt has received a 'blanket waiver' to fly first class whenever he travels, after POLITICO pointed officials to federal travel rules that appeared to bar such arrangements…The EPA spokesman said anyone seeking additional details about Pruitt’s travels would have to formally request them under the Freedom of Information Act, a process that can take months or years." (POLITICO)
- VA Secretary Shulkin reimburses government, apologizes following report that he misused resources, staff doctored documents. "Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said he regrets mistakes he and others made during travel planning and ethics clearance processes that led to findings by the VA inspector general that he had misused taxpayer resources during a European trip last year…Investigators found the chief of staff, Viveca Wright Simpson, doctored an email to make it look like Shulkin was getting special recognition or an award during the trip in order to get approval for his wife’s flights. And they said Shulkin mischaracterized the woman who provided him with the Wimbledon tickets as a friend when they had only met three times at official events." (USA Today)
- How $225,000 and political connections helped save a pollution boosting loophole at the EPA. Eric Lipton tells the story of "a loophole in federal law that the Obama administration tried to close, and the Trump administration is now championing." Lipton explains the survival of the loophole, which allows long haul trucks with rebuilt diesel engines to avoid restrictive emissions controls, as "a story of money, politics and suspected academic misconduct, according to interviews and government and private documents, and has been facilitated by Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has staked out positions in environmental fights that benefit the Trump administration’s corporate backers." (New York Times)
- Revolving door spins as Congressional retirements mount. "Lawmakers heading for the exits at the end of the congressional session are already testing the waters for jobs on K Street. Nearly three-dozen lawmakers are set to be free agents in 2019, including four members who have already left office. That number is certain to grow, with more retirements expected this spring." (The Hill)
- Amazon has increased its lobbying spending by 400 percent over the past five years. "In the past five years, Amazon increased lobbying spending by more than 400 percent, a rate of change that far exceeds rivals’. It lobbied more government agencies than any other tech company, pressed its case on as many issues as Google, and outspent everyone in the industry except for the search giant, the data show." (Bloomberg)
- How a controversial Census question on citizenship could throw off the count and ultimately effect public health. "As the Census Bureau finalizes the questions for the 2020 census, key voices in the Trump administration are pressing for surveyors to ask one critical question: Are you a United States citizen? Advocates of the so-called citizenship question say it is merely clerical, an effort to ascertain how many noncitizens reside in the United States. But the question would have broad ramifications, not only for the politics of redistricting that will emerge from the census but for an issue that goes beyond partisanship: public health." (New York Times)
Around the world
- French President Emmanuel Macron removes press from Elysée Palace. "French President Emmanuel Macron’s office is closing the press room inside the Elysée Palace and moving it down the street, advisers told reporters Wednesday…Reporters have had a press room inside the presidential palace for some 40 years, from where they are able to cover press conferences and visits by foreign leaders, among other events." (POLITICO)
- South African President Jacob Zuma officially steps down. "Cyril Ramaphosa faces a tough road ahead as South Africa’s new president after Jacob Zuma’s resignation late Wednesday ended nine years of his scandal-marred administration. Ramaphosa remains acting president until his expected election in parliament later Thursday in Cape Town and swearing in by the chief justice." (Bloomberg)
- Communications shutdown in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula during military campaign poses a major problem for civilians. "As part of a military operation to root out 'terrorists and criminal elements and organizations' from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula and adjacent areas, the Egyptian Armed Forces have ordered a region-wide shutdown of internet and telecommunications services…This major military campaign has effectively placed the Sinai in a media blackout, with telecommunications shutdowns disconnecting Sinai residents from each other and isolating them from the rest of the country and world." (Global Voices)
save the dates
- Tuesday, February 27. Community Impact With Open Data: Two Models from Canada and the United States. 12-1 PM EST. Webinar. "Involving community members in open data work can be unfamiliar, unclear, or even intimidating. How can city staff recognize these fears, understand the powerful potential of public collaboration, and cultivate that power to create a robust and enduring open data program? Canadian nonprofit OpenNorth and the U.S.-based Sunlight Foundation Open Cities team have both created models for what engaged, collaborative data publication and use looks like. Join us for a webinar conversation on Tuesday, February 27, 2018 from 12-1 PM EST to learn about these two approaches and how your city can use them for your own work empowering community use of open data." Learn more here and register for the webinar here.
- Saturday, March 3. Open Data Day. Global. "Open Data Day is only a few weeks away: on Saturday 3 March 2018 groups from around the world are hosting talks, hackathons, conferences, workshops and other meetups celebrating the benefits open data can bring their communities." Find an event near you via the map at opendataday.org
- March 9 – 16. Sunshine Week. Around the United States. "Across the country, Sunshine Week is marked by panel discussions, workshops and other events about using and understanding the latest developments in freedom of information resources." Check out the calendar of events here. Sunlight will be hosting a forum on environmental transparency along with the Union of Concerned Scientists on March 13 and we will convene a discussion & town hall on the state of open government on March 15. Learn more and register for the State of Open Government town hall right here.
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