In today's edition, the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee asks for documents on reported reprisals at HUD, the need for objective leadership at the Census Bureau, how data helps us understand the natural world, the evolving nature of state data work, and more.
Before you dig into all of that, take a look ahead to Sunshine Week, taking place between March 11th and 17th. To celebrate, we'll be hosting events focused on open government in the District of Columbia, the U.S. government, and the environment. Learn more about our Sunshine Week efforts and other events happening around DC and the rest of the US right here.
states and cities
- Buffalo, New York launches new open data portal. Aaron Krolikowski shared the good news about data.buffalony.gov.
- New report highlights evolving use of data by states to support decision making. "States' data work, supporting government operations and decision-making, has made a lot of progress — but a new report from Pew Charitable Trusts has identified some things they could be doing better." (Government Technology) Read the full report here.
- Missouri Governor to face trial on invasion of privacy charge in May. "A trial date of May 14 has been set for Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R), who is facing accusations that he threatened to release a nude photo he took, without permission, of a woman he was having an affair with if the woman did not remain silent. Greitens was indicted last week by a St. Louis grand jury with one felony count of invasion of privacy." (The Hill)
- Washington State expected to enact first state net neutrality law. "The Washington state legislature approved a bill on Tuesday, which Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign, that would enact sweeping net neutrality regulations for all internet service providers (ISPs) operating in the state. It would be the first state to enact a law of this kind since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rescinded net neutrality regulations in December." (Governing)
around the world
- China set to block unauthorized Virtual Private Networks, further limiting open Internet access. "For years, thousands of virtual private networks (VPNs) have allowed people in China to circumvent restrictions on internet access and visit Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and other sites blacklisted by the government. That’s changing. Chinese authorities say that starting on March 31 they’ll shut down or simply ban any providers of unauthorized VPN services and apps." (Bloomberg)
- Three top Slovakian officials step down as murdered journalist's final story is published. "Three top Slovakian officials resigned Wednesday following the murder of a journalist investigating allegations of corruption linked to allies of the prime minister. The officials were Slovakian Culture Minister Marek Maďarič, as well as two people named in a draft of the reporter’s final story — which was published by various media outlets Wednesday — chief state adviser Mária Trošková and chair of Slovakia’s security council Viliam Jasaň, the BBC reported." (POLITICO)
- The power of data to understand the natural world. Kalev Leetaru praises Global Fishing Watch, explaining how the "project stands as a powerful model for data-driven development work done right and hopefully, the rise of notable efforts like it will eventually catalyze the broader development community to emerge from the stone age of technology and more openly embrace the technological revolution. While it has a very long way to go, there are signs of hope for the development community as pockets of innovation begin to infuse the power of data-driven decision making and situational awareness into everything from disaster response to proactive planning to shaping legislative action." (Forbes)
- Following White House meetings, Kushner Companies secured major loans from two lenders. According to this report by Jesse Drucker, Kate Kelly, and Ben Protess the Kushner Companies secured large loans from Apollo Global Management and Citigroup not long after leaders from both companies had White House meetings with President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner. While Kushner's family business was not said to be a topic of conversation at the meetings in question, "There is little precedent for a top White House official meeting with executives of companies as they contemplate sizable loans to his business, say government ethics experts." (New York Times) Our take? This is just another example of how failing to divesting from conflicts of interests creates the appearance of public corruption.
- The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee requested documents related to reports of reprisal, excessive spending. "Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, on Wednesday requested that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson turn over all documents and communications pertaining to allegations by a high-ranking civil servant that she was the target of reprisals after sounding the alarm on agency spending." (POLITICO)
- On the Sunlight Blog, Lynn Walsh rounded up the latest conflicts coming out of the President's sphere. "Since we last checked in," she writes "the National Labor Relations Board overturned a previous ruling due to an appointee’s conflict of interest, Donald Trump Jr.’s “unofficial” visit to India raised eyebrows around the world – while attracting lots of media attention – and a charity moved the location of its gala to show support for President Donald J. Trump."
- New details revealed about ex-railroad regulator's extra job. "The former top federal railroad regulator’s side gig as a public relations consultant for a Mississippi sheriff was more extensive than previously revealed, records obtained by POLITICO show." Lauren Gardner reports that "Heath Hall apparently returned reporters’ phone calls, fielded a complaint about a bad link on a jail website and weighed in on coverage of a dog-fighting arrest during the nearly seven months he was the de facto head of the Federal Railroad Administration, according to emails provided by the government of Madison County, Miss. He also communicated with county officials about his firm’s PR work and regularly submitted invoices for its services — sending one such email just hours after a fatal Amtrak crash in Washington state." (POLITICO)
- With upcoming USASpending relaunch, a new era for federal spending data approaches. Joel Gurin and Katarina Rebello tell how, "for more than three years, the Department of the Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) have been working to implement the DATA Act and make large amounts of new data available and useful to the public. Their efforts are now coming to fruition. Agencies have been submitting data to Treasury using the DAIMS since last May, and there is now enough data available to begin the new kinds of analyses that the DATA Act makes possible." (FedScoop)
- The Census Bureau needs strong, objective leadership right now. Sean Moulton explains, "the 2020 census is fast approaching and the Census Bureau has been without permanent leadership for months. A controversial appointee for the Deputy Census Director position recently withdrew. The Trump Administration needs to work quickly to put in place qualified, objective leadership so the Bureau can focus on getting as accurate as possible a count in the census." (Project on Government Oversight)
- Corporations increasingly fight to keep public records about them private. "Records that reveal the details of relationships between government agencies and private entities are a critical use of the federal Freedom of Information Act and state-level public records acts. Yet, as…instances [in this article] exemplify, private parties are increasingly deploying a diversity of tactics to prevent the disclosure of newsworthy documents about themselves." (Freedom of the Press Foundation
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