In today's edition, we look at the fallout from the disclosure of former FBI Director Comey's memos last night by the Associated Press after the Department of Justice shared them with Congress, we share fresh on ways to support community open data use, federal funding information may be at risk of tampering, more emolumental questions emerge for President Trump, Russia shuts down a secure messaging service, and more.
states and cities
- We've got 36 fresh ideas to help support community use of open data. Alex Dodds shares some thoughts from an event we held on Wednesday, " “Fresh ideas for supporting community use of open data,” an interactive workshop with open data professionals from across the country about how to help residents from all walks of life find, understand, and use publicly available data…events, and projects that were shared throughout the course of the event." (Sunlight Foundation)
- In Columbus, Ohio on May 23rd? Check out Data Demo Day! "Please join the nation’s leading Open Data and Transparency experts on May 23rd to discuss what Open Data means and how it’s beneficial to governments. The Open Data Initiative is organizing the event along with the Sunlight Foundation, US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Data Coalition, and Buckeye Institute." (REGISTER)
- A judge ruled that an invasion-of-privacy lawsuit against Missouri Governor Eric Greitens may proceed. "The felony invasion-of-privacy case against Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens can continue, Circuit Judge Rex Burlison ruled in St. Louis on Thursday. Many of Greitens' fellow Republicans have urged him to resign; he has refused." (NPR)
- More of the American public is participating in direct democracy through state level ballot initiatives. "Through citizen-led ballot measures, voters in many states can use the power of direct democracy to bypass state legislatures and create new laws. These measures have been instrumental in recent years in pushing forward major legislation on health care, election reform, drugs, and other policy areas that have hit an impasse in statehouses. In 2018, these initiatives—and efforts by legislatures to stop or negotiate them—will be critical factors in determining who really controls government, and just exactly how it works." (The Atlantic)
- In a new report, the General Accountability Office warned that federal spending data is at risk for hacking and tampering. "A number of security gaps in the Treasury Department’s financial reporting system could leave the door open for online bad actors to tamper with the government’s spending data, a congressional watchdog found. The Government Accountability Office uncovered eight different flaws in the system used by the department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service to check the accuracy of the annual financial reports it publishes for every government agency." (NextGov)
- Former Rep. Aaron Schock is trying to get his corruption case tossed. "The federal indictment hanging over the head of former congressman Aaron Schock repeatedly references the official rules of the U.S. House of Representatives. Trouble is, some of them are pretty vague. Or so says Schock. And his attorneys insist the judicial branch has no business deciding what they really mean. To do so would be a violation of the separation of powers. That’s the argument the former rising star and his legal team took to the 27th floor of Chicago’s federal courthouse Wednesday. There, they called on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a lower court judge and toss Schock’s indictment." (Chicago Sun Times)
- A new complaint alleges a U.S. Senator violated federal campaign finance law and regulations by hosting fundraisers at a lobbyist's condominium without paying for them. In an interesting quirk of history, the location was already infamous: "The Capitol Hill condo that landed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt into a whirlwind of controversy may ensnare another Washington power broker. Committees for Idaho Republican Senator Mike Crapo hosted a series of campaign fundraisers at the crashpad used by Pruitt. But the committees didn’t report making any payments to the owner of the condo, according to the Campaign for Accountability, a watchdog group that has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
"It’s not that complicated: lobbyists can’t let senators host fundraisers at their businesses for free," Daniel E. Stevens, the Campaign for Accountability’s executive director, told Bloomberg. "If Senator Crapo or the lobbying power couple of Vicki and J. Steven Hart violated federal law, they should be held accountable.” (Bloomberg)
- Congress listens to advice on the ethical implications of artificial intelligence. "The prospect of boosting implementation of artificial intelligence in and out of the U.S. government has lawmakers searching for answers on how to overcome ethical and privacy challenges that come with the technology, as well as how to compete with the rest of the world. Representatives from technology trade groups and think tanks told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform IT Subcommittee at a Wednesday hearing that the U.S. is in a leadership position to develop ethical norms surrounding AI, but it’s an advantage easily lost if the country sleeps on it." (FedScoop)
- The Philippine embassy is holding its independence day event at President Trump's Washington hotel. "The Philippine government is hosting an event in the Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. this coming June amid ongoing concern that the property is being used as a conduit to gain influence with the president…The event comes as the Philippines seeks a new trade deal with the United States, an agreement that Trump has pledged to consider but on which he has yet to finalize a decision." (The Daily Beast) The event, as David Fahrenthold pointed out, will come one day after "a federal judge will hear arguments in a lawsuit alleging President Trump is violating the constitution….b/c his hotel takes payments from foreign govts."
- President Trump has spent an average of one day per week at Mar-a-Lago as president. Philip Bump explores the history of the "Southern White House", and finds that "President Trump’s declaration this week that Mar-a-Lago 'is indeed the Southern White House' is a declaration that should be unremarkable given how the term has bounced around from president to president. It’s the current Southern White House, certainly, but that may change…We will give Trump credit on one score, though: He’s using his Southern White House far more than Truman, Roosevelt or Nixon did — though perhaps not as much as Jefferson Davis used his. With Trump’s extended visit to the property this week, he’s now spent all or part of one out of every seven days of his presidency at the property — the equivalent of one day out of every week." (Washington Post)
- The EPA Inspector General will take a look at Scott Pruitt's habit of taking round-the-clock security on personal trips. "The EPA’s internal watchdog will investigate the around-the-clock security protection for Administrator Scott Pruitt including the possibility bodyguards accompanied him to Disneyland and the Rose Bowl, in adding to at least four other probes into Pruitt and his staff." (Bloomberg)
- Cyprus is at the center of a Trump connected circle of corruption. "The country of Cyprus has a long history as a laundromat for dirty money, particularly from Russia. Cyprus is referenced 530,937 times in the Panama Papers, and the Bank of Cyprus, the country's largest bank, is referenced 4,657 times. And the cast of characters linked to the bank and President Donald Trump is troubling." (The Dallas Morning News)
around the world
- Russia is trying to shut down down a secure messaging app and might be blocking Google and Amazon in the process. "Early today, Roskomnadzor—Russia's Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media—moved to enforce a new Russian federal law blocking the use of Telegram, the encrypted chat and social networking application that has become the favored tool of Russia's political opposition and journalists. The censorship began with Roskomnadzor instructing Internet service providers to block requests to Internet Protocol addresses of Telegram's servers. But as users flocked to virtual private networks and proxy services to reach Telegram from their mobile devices and computers—or resorted to building their own—government censors added large swaths of IP addresses to the block list. And according to multiple sources within Russia, ISPs there are now blocking large chunks of IP addresses associated with cloud services from Amazon and Google." (Ars Technica)
- Indian opposition wants to impeach the country's top judge over politically motivated decisions. "India’s opposition parties are seeking the impeachment of the country’s chief justice over allegations he misused his authority to influence the outcome of politically-sensitive cases." (Bloomberg)
- Facebook looks increasingly unlikely to extend European data protection rules to all of its users. "When Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told U.S. lawmakers last week that he would extend Europe’s strict new privacy rules to the company’s 2.2 billion users around the world, many took his word at face value. It turns out, they should have read the fine print. Despite Zuckerberg’s pledge, almost all of the privacy standards included in Europe’s overhaul, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, will remain off-limits to Facebook users outside the 28-member bloc, according to legal experts and company insiders." (POLITICO)
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