Today in OpenGov: Did you get the memo?


In today's edition, the latest on Scott Pruitt's First Class travel, a new House Intelligence memorandum highlights key omissions in the last one, the Washington state legislature exempts itself from public records law, bad news for Navalny, one of Russia's primary voices of opposition, and much more.


The declassified Democratic memo.
  • Following delay, House Democrats release their own Russia investigation memo. "Democrats released a redacted memo Saturday that they say rebuts Republican claims that the Justice Department and FBI abused their spying powers in the Russia investigation. The document, a direct counterpart to a Republican memo released earlier this month, was written by Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, and Democratic staff. The release comes after President Donald Trump told Democrats they would have to redact the document before it could be made public, delaying it by two weeks." (BuzzFeed)
  • The House Oversight Committee is looking into EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's First Class travel habit. "As questions about the official travel habits of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt mount, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is demanding documents and other information on his first-class flights, as it looks into whether federal laws were broken." (Roll Call) Our take? The EPA and Congress should publish Pruitt's travel records online as open data, along with his calendar and agency visitor logs. Transparency and accountability should be the default for the public business conducted by every cabinet secretary. 
  • Rick Gates, former Trump campaign adviser, pleads guilty, will cooperate with Mueller probe. "A former top adviser to Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election after pleading guilty on Friday to financial fraud and lying to investigators." (New York Times)
  • Watchdog requests review of fundraiser appearance by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "A government watchdog group asked the Federal Election Commission on Thursday to investigate Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's appearance at Virgin Islands Fundraiser, and it plans to request that Interior's Inspector General probe what it contends is his 'pattern of violations' of ethics regulations." (POLITICO)
  • Two weeks after being tapped for Ambassador post, Florida businessman pledged thousands to fund Mar-a-Lago gala. "Two weeks after President Trump nominated Florida businessman Leandro Rizzuto Jr. to be ambassador to Barbados, Rizzuto pledged thousands of dollars to fund a gala at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club, the gala’s organizer said." The pledge was likely between $15,000 and $25,000. (Washington Post)
  • A big week in conflicts for President Trump. Lynn Walsh recapped the latest batch of potential conflicts for the President including a look at which businesses pay rent to the President of the United States – despite, in some cases being federal contractors – the Trump Organization revives a project in the Dominican Republic, the railroad safety chief resigns amid allegations of moonlighting, and a nomination for a new federal ethics chief. (Sunlight Foundation)
Trumpland, briefly:
  • The EPA and the National Archives are being sued over Scott Pruitt's record keeping failures. (Government Executive)
  • President Trump is reportedly considering his "personal pilot" for the top spot at the FAA. (Washington Post)
  • A look inside Paul Manafort and Rick Gates' "money machine." (Washington Post)
  • Donald Trump Jr. took a trip to India that blurred the lines between business, politics, and governance. (The Atlantic)

washington watch

  • Facebook has a plan to verify who is buying election related advertising. It involves postcards. " Facebook Inc will start using postcards sent by U.S. mail later this year to verify the identities and location of people who want to purchase U.S. election-related advertising on its site…The postcard verification is Facebook’s latest effort to respond to criticism from lawmakers, security experts and election integrity watchdog groups that it and other social media companies failed to detect and later responded slowly to Russia’s use of their platforms to spread divisive political content, including disinformation, during the 2016 U.S. presidential election." (Reuters) What does this mean? Facebook will have data of who bought election-related ads, how much they spent & where, what the ads was, when the buy was made, and who made the buy. They should disclose all of it as structured data online in a public file.
  • Meanwhile, campaigns are anxiously waiting to see the extent of Facebook's ad related changes. "Campaigns across the country are anxiously awaiting changes to the way they advertise on Facebook, after the platform promised more transparency about and new rules for political advertising. Though there’s been widespread focus on Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election, traditional campaigns and PACs spent millions and millions of dollars on ads — and even small changes in process or the algorithm could mean big changes for how political campaigns reach people this year." (BuzzFeed)
  • Despite political opposition, Democratic candidates regularly use "dark money." "Democrats love decrying 'dark money' — political contributions for which the source of funds is a mystery. But that isn’t stopping them from accepting “dark money” themselves or making it difficult to determine the original underwriter of a political donation, as a recent Southern contest vividly illustrates." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Supreme Court rules that Dodd-Frank whistleblower protections only apply if complaints are brought to the SEC. "The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that whistleblower protections passed by Congress in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008 apply only when those alleging corporate misdeeds bring their information to the government. The court said that the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 did not cover those who brought allegations only to their employers and not to the Securities and Exchange Commission." (Washington Post)
Washington, briefly:
  • Niall Brennan, Charles Ornstein, and Austin B. Frakt argue that HHS should release Medicare Advantage Claims as open data. (Journal of the American Medical Association) We agree.
  •  It's getting harder to prosecute politicians for public corruption. (Government Executive)
  • After years of relative transparency, the OPM claimed a privacy exemption under FOIA to redact salary data for more than 250,000 federal employees. Adam Andrzejewski explains via Fox News.

states and cities

The Washington State Capitol. Image Credit: Bluedisk.
  • Lawmakers in Washington state exempted themselves from public records requirements without debate or hearings. Joseph O'Sullivan reports, "forget everything you ever learned about how a bill becomes a law. Forget those public hearings, floor debates and deliberations. With breathtaking speed, Washington lawmakers passed a bill Friday that removed themselves from the state’s voter-approved Public Records Act — keeping years of emails and other documents off-limits and making the Legislature its own gatekeeper when it comes to secrecy." Sunlight's John Wonderlich weighed in, arguing that the move “flies in the face of what we expect from how government should function.” (Seattle Times) Meanwhile, the Olympian Editorial board urged Washington Governor Jay Inslee to veto the measure. 
  • Missouri Governor indicted on invasion of privacy charge related to affair, blackmail allegations. "Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted Thursday afternoon by a St. Louis grand jury on a felony charge of invasion of privacy. The charge stems from a 2015 affair and allegations that he threatened to release a nude photograph of the woman, taken while she was blindfolded and her hands were bound, if she ever spoke publicly about the affair." (The Kansas City Star)
  • Responding to lack of data on sexual harassment, Seattle mayor orders more information sharing among city departments. Daniel Beekman reports that "Seattle leaders trying to address #MeToo concerns are dealing with blurry data on sexual harassment and a fragmented human-resources system…Seeking more transparency and accountability, Mayor Jenny Durkan has ordered Seattle’s departments to begin notifying the central Department of Human Resources about harassment investigations and settlements." (Seattle Times) Our take? Cities, states, and federal agencies should follow this example.

Around the world

Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Putin critic Alexei Navalny detained, could be imprisoned for upcoming election. "Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was briefly detained on Thursday and accused of organizing illegal protests, weeks before a presidential election in which he has been barred from running…If found guilty, Navalny could also be jailed for 30 days, which would keep him behind bars until after the election." (Reuters)
  • OGP, World Bank team up to launch Trust Fund to help governments and civil society achieve open government goals. "For three years, the Open Government Partnership has been discussing the idea of launching a Trust Fund to provide support to government and civil society reformers in participating countries. Today, in collaboration with the World Bank as host and the founding donors, we are proud to announce the soft launch of the OGP Trust Fund and the first call for proposals." (Open Government Partnership)
  • Two major rivals are behind a European anti-trust complaint against Google. "Oracle and Naspers, two of the world’s largest tech companies, control a nonprofit group that is the main complainant in a landmark European antitrust inquiry against Google, according to documents obtained by POLITICO…Oracle and Naspers’ exclusive control of FairSearch raises questions about the transparency of EU lobbying and highlights the risk that competition investigations can be taken hostage by warring corporate interests. (POLITICO)
  • Romanians take to streets in support of anti-corruption prosecutor. "Thousands of Romanians took to the streets in a show of support for the Balkan country’s anti-corruption chief, who’s facing an attack on her job after she helped lock up dozens of politicians." (Bloomberg)


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