Today in OpenGov: Overruled


In today’s edition, an emolumental lawsuit will proceed, there are several ongoing opportunities to engage with Congress, Asheville, NC calls for more transparency, exploring open budgets in Greece, and more.


The Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House in Washington, DC.
  • A federal judge rejected President Trump’s attempt to get emoluments lawsuit dismissed. “A federal judge on Wednesday rejected President Trump’s push to dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of violating the Constitution by collecting profits from his luxury hotel in the nation’s capital.” (The Hill)

    The Judge granted standing to Maryland and DC to continue with an emoluments case related to the Trump International hotel in DC and, as Norm Eisen pointed out, the ruling might open the door to suits by other states or businesses facing similar circumstances. We’ll be adding this news to our ongoing reporting on President Trump and his family’s conflicts of interest.

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reportedly overruled career  officials with on his decision on citizenship Census question. “Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’ decision Monday to add a controversial question on citizenship to the 2020 census came in the face of opposition from career officials at the Census Bureau who fear it will depress response rates, especially from immigrants. Two people with knowledge of the deliberations said career leaders in the Census Bureau, which is part of the Commerce Department, had scrambled to come up with alternatives to adding the question. Those efforts were unsuccessful.” (ProPublica)

    Meanwhile, at The Atlantic, Vann R. Newkirk II reflected on how the move would “erode [the Census’] utility — and the political power of immigrant-dense regions.”

  • The Justice Department Inspector General confirmed a probe into the process behind a warrant to spy on a Trump campaign aide. “The Justice Department inspector general confirmed for the first time that he’s looking into whether FBI and department officials acted properly in obtaining a warrant during the 2016 presidential race to spy on a campaign aide to Donald Trump…he said he was responding to requests from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and members of Congress. Sessions and Republican lawmakers have demanded an investigation into the surveillance of Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to the campaign.” (Bloomberg)
  • Trump tariffs have sent foreign governments flocking to K Street. “President Trump’s protectionist trade policies have led to a hiring spree on K Street, as countries seeking to escape tariffs bring on new firms to convince the White House and Congress that they should be treated favorably. Since the beginning of 2017, eight countries have added roughly two dozen firms to work on trade issues, according to disclosures filed to the Justice Department and counted by The Hill.” (The Hill)
  • This week in podcasts: Trump, Inc. looks at the red flags raised by Trump Organization deals in India. “Corruption in India is quite common, particularly in the real estate industry. India’s also where the Trump Organization has four projects currently under construction and another just completed, more than it has in any other foreign country. As we detailed last week on “Trump, Inc.,” Donald Trump Jr. has been closely involved in much of the work.” (ProPublica)

washington watch

  • Just a few days left to get in on the Congressional Data Challenge! The Library of Congress is “sponsoring this legislative data challenge to advance the discovery, use, and exploration of the collection of legislative information the Library offers to the nation and the world through the website” The first prize is worth $5,000 and there is a $1,000 for Best High-School Project! The deadline for submissions is coming up on April 2nd, 2018. Learn more here.
  • Help the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives design its new website. The Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives is looking for public feedback on its new website. Please explore this alpha version and help make the people’s house more open, transparent and accountable to the public it serves.
  • Real world roadblocks to evidence-based policy making. In a new report, released Wednesday, “the Bipartisan Policy Center attempted to describe the shoals on which the movement to incorporate more evidence in funding decisions could founder. Part I of a two-part ‘Evidence Use in Congress‘ report identifies 16 barriers in the categories of perception, institutional and systemic.” (Government Executive)
  • An FBI agent was charged with leaking classified material to The Intercept. “A Minneapolis FBI agent who started his career with the agency as an intern in 2000 has been charged with leaking classified information to the news website The Intercept.” (MPR News)

states and cities

  • Public data can be used to increase sustainability in cities. “Improving sustainability is one of the core promises of the smart city revolution. Cities and vendors alike have heralded optimization as an environmental panacea: by using data to make everything from transportation to service delivery faster and more efficient, cities can ensure more responsible use of energy. Optimizing existing systems, however, is only one way of realizing sustainability in data-driven cities. Better and more widely accessible environmental data is also a tool for inspiring change, both from the top down and the bottom up.” (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • A reporter was arrested for using his cell phone in the New York state Capitol. “New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo helped free a newspaper reporter from police custody Wednesday after the reporter was detained for talking on his cellphone in the state Capitol. Kenneth Lovett, Albany bureau chief for the New York Daily News, was detained shortly before 1 p.m. in the lobby of the New York State Senate chamber…News of the detention spread quickly on Twitter and drew outcry from Democrats who pointed out that the cellphone rule is never enforced.” (POLITICO)
  • In the wake of a police brutality incident, activists in Asheville, NC call for more transparency. “A local advocacy group is calling on the city to improve transparency in the police department following the publication of body camera footage in February that shows a white former Asheville police officer beating a black city resident.” (Mountain Xpress)

around the world

Open Budgets Index: Greek Municipalities General Index (March 2018) from
  • Mapping open budget data in Greece. Alexa Ioannu explains how “within the scope of, a project funded by the European Union’s H2020 research and innovation programme, Open Knowledge Greece (OK Greece) conducted a survey on the availability of open public budgeting data in Greece. Then, our team created an interactive map that allows users to check the scores of their municipality or regional administrative unit. You can visit to check out the map.” (Open Knowledge)
  • Exploring the impacts of civic technology on April 18-19 in Lisbon, Portugal. Myfanwy Nixon writes that “this year’s Impacts of Civic Technology conference, TICTeC, is shaping up to be one of the best yet. Tickets have almost sold out, so if you’re hoping to attend, don’t delay. Running on April 18-19 in Lisbon, TICTEC will, as usual, provide an unparalleled opportunity to meet the people building and using Civic Technologies that improve lives, solve problems and address social ills. The schedule is now on the TICTeC website, where you can also get acquainted with this year’s speakers.” (mySociety)


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