Today in OpenGov: Open data effects


In today's edition, we weigh in on how well open data efforts are working, campaign finance tweaks sneak into budget proposals, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin doesn't want a video of him getting heckled to get out, the European Commission gets proactive about travel expense transparency, and more.  

states and cities

  • Are open data efforts working? Adam Stone explored that question as "as the first decade of open data turns into the home stretch." Stone interviewed data officers from cities large and small who agreed that success needs to be tied to data use and outcomes, not just basic transparency. That said, Sunlight's Stephen Larrick made it clear that work still needs to be done to define and clarify those goals, explaining that "The most common goals are lofty and conceptual: ‘We are seeking to increase transparency, innovation, collaboration, accountability,’ all sorts of democratic words. But it often leaves a lot of open questions about what success means." (Government Technology
  • Did you miss our webinar on increasing the community impact of open data? Video is now online! The event, which you can watch here, discussed two models for what engaged, collaborative data publication and use looks like: Open North’s cluster model and Sunlight’s Tactical Data Engagement approach.
  • Missouri Attorney General to launch probe of Governor Eri Greitens' former charity. "Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley announced Thursday that his office had opened an inquiry into The Mission Continues, the charity Gov. Eric Greitens founded in 2007 and left in 2014…Questions about Greitens’ ties to his former charity have swirled since October 2016, when The Associated Press reported that Greitens, a Republican, had raised more than $2 million for his campaign from donors or entities that had also given significant amounts to The Mission Continues." (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
  • In better news for Gov. Greitens, AG finds no fault in use of ephemeral messaging app. "Missouri's attorney general said Thursday it didn't appear that fellow Republican Gov. Eric Greitens's staff violated records laws by using a messaging app that deletes messages after they are read." (The Hill)
  • New York City extends Open Data Day into Open Data Week. "NYC Open Data Week is a collaboration between NYC Open Data, BetaNYC and the dynamic NYC civic tech and data communities. We’re kicking off the week on International Open Data Day (March 3) with a day-long conference called School of Data and wrapping up on Saturday (March 10) with an event on the future of mobility; Open Data Art, workshops for youth and showcases of new civic tools by Participatory Budgeting and others will be happening in between. Take a look at the options to learn about NYC Open Data and sign up for events" via NYC Open Data.
  • Don't forget that you can celebrate Open Data Day with Sunlight by helping to complete the 2018 U.S. City Open Data Census. 

washington watch

  • Provisions in must-pass budget bills could boost dark money. "A handful of provisions tucked into a pair of must-pass bills under consideration in Congress this month could reshape the financing of political campaigns and give further cover to donors who want to keep their contributions private." The provisions would roll back campaign finance restrictions on churches and political parties, according to this report by Michelle Ye Hee Lee. (Washington Post)
  • New legislation proposes major rewards for tips on foreign corruption and global kleptocracy. "Are you sitting on a trove of information about global kleptocracy? Do you like the idea of up to $5 million and witness protection? If so, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has the bill for you." Specifically, the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Rewards Act, detailed in this report by Max de Haldevang. (Government Executive)
  • Momentum continues, but opposition emerges against efforts to overhaul foreign lobbying rules. "A bipartisan group of senators on Thursday introduced an overhaul to foreign lobbying rules, while a similar, once fast-moving measure appears temporarily stalled in the House amid pressure from outside interests…Representatives of foreign-owned businesses and multinational nonprofit organizations say they do not want the stigma of being defined as foreign agents. They are pushing for changes to legislation that swiftly passed the House Judiciary Committee in January but has not yet been scheduled for floor action." (Roll Call)
  • Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology website suffering from missing reports, link rot. "If you visit the website for the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM), you’ll find that many of the links for reports lead to dead pages or PDFs that say, 'this page is currently under construction.' Among the inaccessible resources are statistical policy working papers, as well as reports pertaining to collecting data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), which were live on a previous version of the site." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Citing ethics concerns, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai turns down NRA award. "Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on Thursday turned down an NRA gun award he received at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week, citing the advice of ethics officials at his agency." (POLITICO)


Steven Mnuchin being sworn in as Treasury Secretary.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin blocks video of contentious event from being released. "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was taunted with hisses, heckles and profanity during a lecture and moderated discussion at U.C.L.A. this week. Protesters were carried out by armed police officers. A sixth grader in the audience questioned him about the fairness of passing permanent tax cuts for companies and expiring cuts for individuals. But the official video footage of the university’s Arnold C. Harberger Lecture, hosted by the Burkle Center for International Relations, is nowhere to be found. That is because Mr. Mnuchin took the unusual step of revoking his consent for it to be released given the contentiousness of the event." (New York Times)
  • New report finds revolving door concerns for more than 75 Trump administration lawyers. "Under the Trump administration, the revolving door between the U.S. government and law firms that represent big, powerful corporations is spinning like never before. Dozens of Trump administration lawyers working in agencies including the White House, Department of Justice, Interior Department and the Environmental Protection Agency — are now overseeing the government’s interactions with the same kinds of clients they recently represented, a Public Citizen analysis finds." (Public Citizen)
  • Canadian hotel deal could cause issues for Ivanka Trump's security clearance. "US counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing one of Ivanka Trump's international business deals, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The FBI has been looking into the negotiations and financing surrounding Trump International Hotel and Tower in Vancouver, according to a US official and a former US official. The scrutiny could be a hurdle for the first daughter as she tries to obtain a full security clearance in her role as adviser to President Donald Trump." (CNN)

around the world

This GIF aims to make it easier to find European Commissioners' travel expenses, which are being proactively disclosed, but aren't easy to find. GIF by Access Info
  • European Commission starts proactively publishing its travel expenses. The folks at Access Info welcomed "the start of proactive publication of EU Commissioners travel expenses as a positive step towards greater transparency and accountability of spending of public funds. Proactive publication of this information had been a crucial demand of Access Info, which has led a campaign for greater transparency of travel expenses since 2014. Finally, in September 2017 the European Commission had announced changes to Commissioners’ code of conduct that would require publication of these expenses every two months." It's a good first step, although the documents remain fairly difficult to find online. (Access Info)
  • Politics turns deadly in one South African province. "Politics around South Africa’s third-biggest city, Durban, can be a murderous affair. A bloody battle for positions gripping the African National Congress has left dozens dead in KwaZulu-Natal province in the past year. The region, which accounts for more than a fifth of the party’s total membership, has been a battleground between two factions vying for control of positions with access to government budgets worth billions of rand." (Bloomberg)
  • New survey shows push back against movement towards gender pay transparency from Spanish companies. "Governments and investors around the world may be calling for greater transparency to tackle the gender pay gap, but the business community in Spain isn’t so sure. According to a new survey by auditing firm Grant Thornton, 53 percent of executives think auditing and publishing information on salaries by gender is an 'excessive' measure that could have a negative impact on policies and hiring. Only 19 percent said they found the measure effective." (Bloomberg)


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