Today in OpenGov: Emolumental Secrecy


In today's edition, we highlight our webinar today with OpenNorth, along with more exciting events this week, note that a mere ten donors are contributing an outsized portion of super PAC spending, Florida races to catalogue its data, the Trump Organization says it donated the President’s emoluments to the Treasury, and more.

open events

  • Today, please join us at noon for Community Impact With Open Data: Two Models from Canada and the United States! Canadian nonprofit OpenNorth and the U.S.-based our Open Cities team have 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. 
  • This Thursday, please join us and for an Open Data Day Webinar. In this webinar, the team will give an overview of the program, several initiatives underway to improve the site, and share their roadmap. Sunlight's Alex Dodds will join to discuss Sunlight's plans for Open Data Day and other local events happening across the US. You can check it out here on March 1st from 2 – 3 PM EST.  
  • It’s Open Data Day this Saturday! We hope you will celebrate by helping us complete the U.S. City Open Data Census. Join Sunlight for Open Data Day 2018 on March 3 to help assess open data in American cities. We’ll be filling out the City Open Data Census together and invite you to join us. We’ll give you an easy tutorial on how to search for open datasets and how to add that information to the Census. Then you’ll pick a city to focus on and complete its entry. You can join us in DC, New York City, and on online in a Google Hangout
  • Make sure to register for our Sunshine Week events! 

washington watch

Graphic via USA Today.
  • Ten donors account for more than 20% of super PAC donations ahead of midterm elections. "Donations from 10 super-rich individuals account for more than 20% of the money filling the bank accounts of federal super PACs, a USA TODAY analysis shows, highlighting how a small group of wealthy patrons is racing to influence which party will control Congress for the remainder of President Trump’s first term." (USA Today)
  • Tax Reform plan passed last year riddled with difficult to fix mistakes. "President Donald Trump’s tax law that was passed by Republicans with breakneck speed last year is ridden with typos and glitches," reports Alexandra Wilts. Sunlight's John Wonderlich blamed the opaque process and eleventh hour changes to the bill while arguing that "the amount of errors and unintended consequences in the tax bill is far beyond normal.” (The Independent)
  • Departments of State and Defense dedicate $40 million fight foreign propaganda. "After months of delays that angered lawmakers, the State and Defense departments have reached a deal on spending at least $40 million to fight foreign government-sponsored propaganda, in part with help from the private sector. And although Monday's announcement didn't mention Russia by name, the U.S. plan is expected to focus heavily on battling Kremlin-backed disinformation." (POLITICO)
  • Republican FCC Commissioners face ethics scrutiny after appearances at conservative conference. "Two Republican members of the Federal Communications Commission face accusations that they violated government ethics rules during appearances at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was given the National Rifle Association's Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award at CPAC Friday. Accepting the award is almost certainly a violation of government ethics rules, according to Walter Shaub, who was director of the US Office of Government Ethics from 2013 to 2017…Also on Friday, FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly called for the re-election of President Donald Trump during his appearance at CPAC. Advocacy group American Oversight called for an investigation of O'Rielly, saying that he violated a rule against 'engaging in partisan political activity while on duty.'" (Ars Technica)


Illustration by POGO; Photos: Shutterstock, Gage Skidmore
  • FOIA lawsuits surge at EPA under Scott Pruitt. "The Environmental Protection Agency has experienced a huge surge in open records lawsuits since President Donald Trump took office, an analysis of data reviewed by POLITICO shows — a trend that comes amid mounting criticism of EPA's secrecy about Administrator Scott Pruitt’s travels, meetings and policy decisions." (POLITICO) POLITICO's analysis is part of a broader project being conducted with the Project on Government Oversight. You can read more on their site
  • Trump Organization donates foreign profits, won't say how much. "President Donald Trump's business said Monday it donated profits received from foreign-government guests last year to the Treasury Department…The company did not reveal the amount of the donation." (POLITICO)
  • Melania Trump cuts ties with advisor who won $26 million inauguration contract. "The first lady, Melania Trump, has parted ways with an adviser after news about the adviser’s firm reaping $26 million in payments to help plan President Trump’s inauguration." According to this report by Kenneth P. Vogel and Maggie Haberman, "the move was prompted by displeasure from the Trumps over the news, first reported by The New York Times, that a firm created by Ms. Winston Wolkoff was paid nearly $26 million for event planning by a nonprofit group that oversaw Mr. Trump’s inauguration and surrounding events in January 2017." (New York Times)
  • Why was this HUD employee demoted? According to her complaint, she refused to approve a costly redecoration, helped expose a budget shortfall, and was "perceived to be a Democrat." "A senior career official in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has alleged that she was demoted and replaced with a Donald Trump appointee after refusing to break the law by funding an expensive redecoration of Ben Carson’s office…Foster, 47, claimed that she also faced retaliation for exposing a $10m budget shortfall, and for protesting when she was barred from handling a pair of sensitive freedom of information act (FOIA) requests relating to Trump apparently because she was perceived to be a Democrat." (The Guardian)

states and cities

The Iowa State Capitol. Image credit: Iqkotze.
  • The Iowa Senate's swift action on a tax cut bill raises transparency concerns. As Barbara Rodriguez explained, "Iowa Senate Republicans used a procedural maneuver last week to fast-track votes on a sweeping tax overhaul bill that national experts say could limit transparency and public engagement at the state Capitol." Sunlight's Alex Howard weighed in on the effect of moving so quickly on transparency and public participation, arguing that "the more complicated the legislation becomes and the more far-reaching it is, the more it makes sense to look at how much time there is for the public to fully understand and digest it." (Des Moines Register)
  • Florida's new Chief Data Officer is racing to meet a data cataloguing deadline. "Florida’s second-ever chief data officer (CDO), who arrived last month from the private sector, said he is already deep in talks with agency heads around the state and making progress toward an important mid-year data deadline…Like his predecessor, Walsh faces a tight June 30 deadline set by the Legislature to create a data catalog inventorying the state’s many data sets." (Government Technology)
  • Idaho House moves to expand open meetings law. "A measure expanding Idaho's open meeting laws has once again won support from House lawmakers. According to the proposed legislation, boards and commissions created by executive order would be subjected to the Idaho Open Meeting Law. Currently, these panels are not required to let the public know when they're meeting, post an agenda or keep minutes summarizing what they discussed. Nor are the meetings required to be open to the public, even though most — if not all — are." (San Francisco Chronicle via NFOIC)


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