In today's edition, we wrap up Sunshine Week, Slovakia's prime minister steps down, the oil lobby will stay at President Trump's hotel before meeting him at the White House, a member of Congress wants to cut down on long bureaucratic language, and more.
rays of sunshine
Sunshine Week 2018 is coming to a close, but we've got one more batch of stories to share today:
- At New Mexico Foundation for Open Government's candidate forum, gubernatorial hopefuls go on the record for transparency. "Candidates for governor of New Mexico in 2018 are on the record in support of the public’s right to know. Republican Steve Pearce joined Democrats Jeff Apodaca, Joseph Cervantes, Peter DeBenedittis, and Michelle Lujan Grisham at NMFOG’s first ever Sunshine Week Open Government Candidate Forum focused solely on open government issues on Sunday afternoon at KNME in Albuquerque." (NMFOG)
- Sunshine Week report shares best practices to maximize the power for FOIA and fight government secrecy. Yesterday, Open The Government shared a new "Best Practices Guide to FOIA Collaboration, highlighting cases where FOIA collaboration is successfully being used to fuel advocacy campaigns and advance openness policies." Learn more here.
- Ohio Auditor cites 267 local governments for public records law violations. "A handful of Cuyahoga County governments were among 267 cited last year by Auditor Dave Yost's office for not following various laws pertaining to Ohio's public records policies. Yost's office issued 321 citations in 2017 to cities, villages, libraries and school districts for failing to attend public records law training, to have proper records retention policies on the books and to follow other requirements, according to a tally of audits released last year." (Cleveland.com)
- Last night we hosted a Sunshine Week event focused on the state of open government at the federal level as well as open data in Washington, DC. Don't worry if you missed it, we were live-streaming and the video is available on our Facebook page!
around the world
- Murder of Rio de Janeiro city councillor and human rights activists sparks protests across Brazil. "Protests were held across Brazil after a popular Rio city councillor and her driver were shot dead by two men in what appears to have been a targeted assassination. Marielle Franco, 38, was a groundbreaking politician who had become a voice for disadvantaged people in the teeming favelas that are home to almost one-quarter of Rio de Janeiro’s population, where grinding poverty, police brutality and shootouts with drug gangs are routine." (The Guardian)
- New study shows Google earmarked millons to support academics and think tanks in effort to influence EU policy. "Google cultivated links with academics and research organizations across Europe to influence the region’s tough regulatory stance toward the search giant, according to an analysis by a U.S. non-profit group published Friday. The report argues that as part of a decade-long lobbying campaign, the American tech company earmarked millions of euros to support think tanks in Germany, the United Kingdom and Brussels that focused on hot-button topics like competition and copyright reform central to Google’s core advertising business." (POLITICO)
- Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico steps down in wake of journalists murder, protests. "Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico officially resigned Thursday, less than three weeks after the murder of an investigative reporter and his fiancée shocked the nation…The end of Fico’s often controversial term in office comes after Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová were killed in late February, which led to massive countrywide street protests and the revelation that two people in the government had ties to an Italian with links to the Calabrian crime syndicate known as the ’Ndrangheta." (POLITICO)
- How an anti-terrorism and hate-speech law is being used to target students and artists in Spain. "One of the risks when governments try to curb what they see as offensive speech is that other kinds of speech are caught in the same net. One of the most recent examples comes from Spain, where a vague anti-terrorism law has been used to charge and even imprison musicians and other artists." (Columbia Journalism Review)
- India passes budget, includes provision retroactively rolling back rules on foreign campaign funding. "Amid chaotic protests by the opposition, the government amended the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 that bans overseas corporations from funding Indian political parties as part of the budget process. That frees Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its largest rival Indian National Congress from the fallout of a Delhi high court judgment in 2014 that held both guilty of violating the act." (Bloomberg)
- Oil industry group set to hold two-day meeting at Trump International Hotel before heading to the White House to lobby the President. "The oil industry's top lobby group is holding a two-day board meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., before its executive committee goes to the White House to voice concerns about President Donald Trump’s proposed steel tariffs, sources familiar with the meetings told POLITICO." (POLITICO)
- Whistleblower documents show White House, State Department worked to remove "disloyal" career employees. "Political appointees at the State Department targeted career employees for their work during the Obama administration and discussed 'cleaning' out civil servants not sufficiently supportive of the Trump administration, according to internal documents released by congressional Democrats." (Government Executive)
- Treasury Secretary Mnuchin's military flights have cost upwards of $1 million. "Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s use of military aircraft has cost taxpayers nearly $1 million for eight trips, newly released documents show. That includes a one-week trip to the Middle East in late October, which cost $183,646 for flights on military aircraft. That trip came on top of $811,797.81 in previously reported expenditures for government-funded military aircraft." The documents were obtained by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington via a FOIA request. (POLITICO)
- Justice Department Inspector General pushes for better whistleblower training at the FBI. "The FBI, which has been rocked by firings and charges of partisanship, on Thursday drew fire from the Justice Department’s watchdog for inadequate training of supervisors in the handling of whistleblowers." (Government Executive)
- These Congressman want to make language around federal benefits easier to read. "For Americans who qualify for aid through federal programs, navigating the process to unlock those benefits is often stressful and confusing…To cut through the confusion of communications from federal agencies, an unlikely bipartisan duo in the House — Moulton, a New England Democrat, and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina — is introducing a bill aimed at ensuring citizens don’t miss important instruction on how to collect their entitlements because it’s hidden among technical jargon." (Roll Call)
- The ACLU is suing the TSA for searching domestic travelers' electronic devices without warrants. "The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California has sued the Transportation Security Administration, alleging that the agency has improperly withheld documents and other materials that would shed light on warrantless searches of digital devices at airports prior to purely domestic flights." (Ars Technica)
- Members of Congress push for details on potential overlap in White House tech offices. "At a March 15 hearing of two subcommittees of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) read off a list of IT policy topics taken over by White House tech groups in the past year, such as overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs health care IT system, adoption of artificial intelligence, implementation of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act and empowerment of CIOs. He asked whether the White House groups had usurped some of the federal CIO's responsibilities." (Federal Computer Week)
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