Today in OpenGov: Face/Off

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In today's edition, we round up the latest news around Facebook's growing privacy problems, Mueller asks if Russian oligarchs tried to send cash to the Trump campaign, watchdogs complain about a major dark money group, Syracuse improves its data offerings, and more. 

face/off

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Image credit: Maurizio Pesce.

Yesterday, before CEO Mark Zuckerberg answered questions from reporters, Facebook announced that Cambridge Analytica may have "improperly obtained data on 37 million more users than originally reported." During his conference call with reporters, Zuckerberg claimed responsibility for what he described as "a huge mistake." (POLITICO) Additionally, after previously declining to commit to a course of action, "Zuckerberg said that Facebook will voluntarily implement the European Union's new privacy rules, known as the GDPR, which take effect in May 2018," for all Facebook users, not just those in Europe. (Ars Technica)

Zuckerberg is slated to appear before a joint session of the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees on Tuesday. On Wednesday he will sit down with the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (POLITICO) As Dave Levinthal explained, Zuckerberg has yet to reply to a March 19th letter from FEC Vice Chair Ellen Weintraub inviting him to testify on June 27 at a hearing about disclaimers for political ads on the internet.

It's worth noting here that nearly 30 members of Congress, including three who sit on committee's that are set to question Zuckerberg next week, own Facebook stock. (Roll Call)
Our view? Zuckerberg has spent the past decade talking about the value of openness on Facebook while his lobbyists opposed privacy legislation and transparency regulation. He has said he supports Honest Ads, but hasn't told Congress, or Facebook's users. We hope he comes to DC and supports transparency with actions, not just rhetoric.

states and cities

A chart from Syracuse Open Data new budget and revenue data release showingFY2017 revenue by month. 
  • Syracuse, New York added city spending and budget data to its online portal. The move was part of an expansion of Syracuse's open data program announced yesterday by Mayor Ben Walsh, with releases across four new areas: operating spending, capital project spending, procurement, and fiscal year 2019 proposed budget. You can check out the new data here. Our view? A job well done! We are glad to see more cities and states enacting public records reforms, publishing spending and budgets online as open data, and embracing modern technologies to arm the public with information about how our taxpayer dollars are being spent.
  • Asheville, NC moves to release body camera footage of police beating, getting exemption from state law. "In a rare move, the city of Asheville, N.C., has released body camera footage of a police officer choking a man and punching him in the head multiple times — allegedly after the man was jaywalking. North Carolina state law does not normally allow the release of police videos without a court order; however, the city petitioned and was granted permission to release all footage relating to the event last August by the Buncombe County Superior Court." (NPR) As Sunlight's Alex Dodd's drew attention to, the release stems from efforts by Code fo Asheville to improve local government transparency through the release of police data, reports, and policies.
  • What do state chief data officers do anyway? "These positions play a key role in advancing the quality of data used as a strategic asset to support more effective program investments. CDOs create data-driven solutions for intermittent issues like hurricanes and traffic events, as well as for chronic problems like poverty." (PEW)

trumpland


 
  • President Trump ate dinner with backers of a key allied super PAC last night. Yesterday, Alex Isenstadt reported that "President Donald Trump will spend Wednesday evening dining with backers of America First Action, the principal pro-Trump super PAC, which is expected to spend millions of dollars in this year’s midterm elections. The Washington dinner will also be attended by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a key informal Trump adviser, said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters." (POLITICO)
  • One of the Trump Organization's partners in India is being accused of $150 million fraud. "One of the Trump Organization's partners in an Indian project was accused of running an elaborate real estate scam, cheating investors out of roughly $150 million, according to complaints filed with Indian authorities." (Business Insider
  • Special Counsel questioning Russian oligarchs about attempts to funnel cash to Trump campaign, inauguration. "Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has taken the unusual step of questioning Russian oligarchs who traveled into the US, stopping at least one and searching his electronic devices when his private jet landed at a New York area airport, according to multiple sources familiar with the inquiry…Investigators are asking whether wealthy Russians illegally funneled cash donations directly or indirectly into Donald Trump's presidential campaign and inauguration." (CNN)
  • Director of National Intelligence says that he expects to declassify background information on Trump's CIA Pick. "Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Wednesday that he expects to 'declassify as much as possible' from the background of Gina Haspel, President Donald Trump's controversial pick to lead the CIA. Haspel's close involvement in the use of harsh interrogation tactics on detained terrorism suspects has raised concerns among senators in both parties and cast a cloud on her confirmation prospects to lead the spy agency, where she is currently deputy director." (POLITICO)
  • Rex Tillerson spent $12 million on consultants as part of his plan to reorganize the State Department. "It was one of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s core goals: radically reshaping the State Department to make it leaner, cheaper and modernized to the standards of a former private-sector CEO. Now that Tillerson has been fired, the vaunted "Redesign" initiative he launched faces an uncertain future, but at least one clear legacy: around $12 million dollars spent just for private consultants who in some cases charged the State Department more than $300 an hour." (POLITICO)

washington watch

Washington, DC. Image by Alex Howard.
  • Watchdogs file complaint against conservative dark money group over tax filings. "A conservative “dark money” organization hasn’t been filing its federal taxes, and two watchdog organizations are asking the IRS to levy penalties. Americans for Job Security, a nonprofit trade organization that spent millions of dollars boosting Republican congressional candidates, hasn’t filed its taxes in three years, according to Issue One and the Campaign Legal Center, which filed a formal complaint this morning." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • New research looks at how well federal agencies have integrated open government into their performance plans. The paper, by Suzanne Piotrowski, David H. Rosenbloom, Sinah Kang , and Alex Ingrams looked at how integration of open government into federal government performance planning has grown since the early 2000s. Among other things, the paper found that the National Archives, which has transparency as part of its mission did better job of integrating open government values into their performance plans.
  • Office of Congressional Ethics finds that Rep. Jimmy Duncan may have funneled $100,000 worth of campaign money to family. "An Office of Congressional Ethics investigation has found that Rep. Jimmy Duncan may have improperly used more than $100,000 in campaign donations. The money included tens of thousands of dollars that went to his son, a felon who is also the Tennessee Republican’s campaign manager." (POLITICO)

 

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