Today in OpenGov: Give it up?


In today's edition, find out why 411 is the number of the day, Scott Pruitt keeps hanging on, Code for America looks to help vulnerable populations, the FEC ups its scrutiny of Ryank Zinke's old PAC, Europe fights a losing battle against money laundering, and more.

conference me in

Screen shot via WH.Gov.

It has been 411 days since President Trump's last solo, formal press conference. As we explained on Twitter, the President has held 23 joint press conferences, but hasn't faced the media alone in a formal setting for more than 400 days. Data from U.C. Santa Barbara's Presidency Project shows that's way off norms set by his predecessors.

One more thing to note: every President going back to Nixon has held a prime-time press conference while in the White House – except Trump.


Image credit: Gage Skidmore.
  • The White House is considering firing EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, but his deregulatory skill may help him hang on… "White House chief of staff John Kelly has considered the firing of embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt in the coming months as part of a wave of ousters of top officials causing headaches for the president, a senior administration official told POLITICO. Pruitt is still hanging on for now, in part because…Pruitt is doing the job President Donald Trump wants — including an announcement Monday that the agency will reverse the Obama administration’s attempt to tighten fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks." (POLITICO)
  • …meanwhile, reports indicate that the EPA signed off on a pipeline plan with lobbying ties to Pruitt's landlord. "The Environmental Protection Agency signed off last March on a Canadian energy company’s pipeline-expansion plan at the same time that the E.P.A. chief, Scott Pruitt, was renting a condominium linked to the energy company’s powerful Washington lobbying firm." (New York Times)
  • President Trump's attacks on Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and the Washington Post are straight out of the "autocrats' playbook." Michelle Golberg explains how "modern authoritarians rarely seize critical newspapers or TV stations outright. Instead, they use state power to pressure critics and reward friends." Highlighting several recent examples, Golberg notes that Donald Trump has joined the list by "going after Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post." (New York Times)
  • Office of Women's Health removes breast cancer information, renewing concerns over censorship, commitment to public health. The Web Integrity Project released their " third report about Web censorship at the Office on Women’s Health (OWH)…Beyond indicating potential changes in policy, these removals sow real doubt about important health considerations for populations of vulnerable women throughout the country…[the latest report] documents the removal of the OWH Breast Cancer website, which included fact sheets about breast cancer and information on how to access free or low-cost breast cancer screening programs, from within, the OWH website…The specificity of these removals adds more evidence to a growing concern: that public information for vulnerable populations is being targeted for removal or simply hidden." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • A member of President Trump's 2016 campaign team is suing to void her non-disclosure agreement. "A former employee of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team is seeking to nullify a non-disclosure agreement, saying it potentially put her on the hook to pay $1.5 million because she sued the organization for discrimination and harassment. Jessica Denson, a Los Angeles-based actress, is the third woman who has sought to void a secrecy agreement involving Trump; the adult film star Stormy Daniels sued to block a pact that she alleges forced her to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump, and former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, sued the parent company of the National Enquirer to void a deal that she says forced her to stay silent about an affair she had with him." (Bloomberg)

states and cities

Image via Code for America.
  • Code for America launches new fellowship program aimed at improving services for vulnerable populations. Code for America Executive Director Jennifer Pahlka explains, "Code for America is pleased to announce that we’re accepting applications for our Community Fellowship pilot — a program that pairs local Brigade talent (fellows will be brigade members!) with government to improve services for vulnerable people they serve. The Community Fellowship program is a way for local leaders — including developers, designers, procurement experts, policy wonks, product managers, and more — to help their community’s most vulnerable residents." (Code for America)
  • A Las Vegas judge tried to block news outlets from reporting on publicly available data, but the Nevada Supreme Court disagreed. "On February 9, 2018, a Las Vegas judge ordered the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Associated Press to destroy their copies of an autopsy report of an off-duty police officer killed in a mass shooting…On February 12, the Review-Journal and AP appealed Scotti’s decision, petitioning the Nevada Supreme Court for an emergency writ that would vacate Scotti’s order. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Nevada Press Association filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the news organizations…The Nevada Supreme Court granted the emergency writ." (U.S. Press Freedom Tracker)
  • This map lets you look at Boston, Massachusetts through data. Jess Weaver details "the impressive cross-institution collaboration that has resulted in the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI), a data-driven duet co-conducted by Northeastern and Harvard Universities." Specifically, she focuses on the Boston Research Map, "a treasure trove of Boston’s public data powered by WorldMap, an open source mappng software developed by the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University. Users can view data at the neighborhood or city levels, and view both contemporary and historical data. Eager to harness the intellectual capital of the college town, the map’s creators have also made it possible for users to upload their own data." (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • Thanks to a backlog, it's not getting an easier to access records from past governors of Virginia. "The Library of Virginia is years behind in cataloging documents from former governors’ administrations and has declined to make records in that trove of information available under public records requests. The backlog came to light when progressive blogger Jonathan Sokolow filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking details about agreements former Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration reached with developers of two natural gas pipelines." (WTOP)

washington watch

Image via the National Parks Service.
  • The FEC is asking for more information from Interior Secretary Zinke's old PAC. "The Federal Election Commission is asking a leadership PAC previously affiliated with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to account for more than $600,000 of previously unreported contributions from the first six months of 2017. For most of the period in question, the committee, SEAL PAC, was overseen by Vincent DeVito, who is now a top aide to Zinke at the Interior Department, and this is the second time federal regulators have looked into discrepancies during his tenure." (POLITICO)
  • House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy called on to step down following recent comments. In a letter, Project on Government Oversight Executive Director Danielle Brian called on Gowdy to step down from his leadership of the committee following  an interview with Margaret Brennan on Sunday morning in which he stated “Congress has proven itself incapable of conducting serious investigations.” Brian wrote that, "Your apparent opinion that Congress lacks the ability to conduct serious investigations, rather than the will to do it, is irreconcilable with your leadership position on HOGR." Read the full letter via the Project on Government Oversight.
  • Civil liberties and privacy advocates call on tech companies to take pledge to protect user data. "Top civil liberties groups and privacy advocates are pressing technology companies to do more to protect their users after Cambridge Analytica improperly collected data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts without users' consent." (The Hill)
  • Tesla released details about a recent crash involving its "autopilot" feature. The National Transportation Safety Board wasn't happy. "Federal investigators said Sunday they were 'unhappy' that Tesla had released information related to a fatal crash involving one of its Model X vehicles late last month. Tesla announced late Friday that the Tesla Model X had its semiautonomous 'Autopilot' mode activated moments before it slammed into a highway barrier on U.S. 101 in California on March 23, killing driver Walter Huang, 38…But the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, expressed concerns with Tesla’s preliminary explanation, pointing to the ongoing investigation." (Washington Post)

around the world

  • Improved information sharing around terrorism in Europe has not extended to financial crimes. "As Europe was hit by a series of terror attacks — from Paris to Brussels, from Nice to Berlin — the profile of the EU agency increased and so did the amount of information on terrorism that national governments fed into its databases. However, the same progress has not been made in the fight against financial crime." (POLITICO)
  • A team of Ecuadorian journalists was kidnapped, complicating Colombia's peace process. "The kidnapping of a journalist team by a dissident group of FARC (which stands for Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in Spanish) on the border with Ecuador represents another complicating factor to Colombia’s road to peace after more than 50 years of armed conflict." (Global Voices)
  • Process to fill high level staff positions at the European Parliament is likely to be politically motivated and opaque, critics say. "A handful of senior appointments to the European Parliament’s secretariat will be made in the coming months through backroom political deals rather than a transparent recruitment process, according to trade unions and officials within the assembly. Six Parliament officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said that eight individuals are allegedly destined to be the successful candidates for the director-level positions within the Parliament’s civil service." (POLITICO)


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