Today in OpenGov: Expand and contract


In today's edition, President Trump threatens to shut out critical press outlets, Glendale, AZ gets tactical, Turkey's president looks for a power-up ahead of upcoming elections, the 2020 Census' troubles get animated, and more. 


Credit: Ann Telnaes. 
  • President Trump renews his battle with the press by threatening to pull White House credentials in response to negative coverage. "President Donald Trump complained Wednesday that his administration receives overwhelmingly negative coverage from network news outlets and floated the idea of pulling credentials from outlets whose reporting is deemed unfair by the White House. Trump cited a study from the right-leaning Media Research Center that showed 91 percent of the coverage of Trump’s administration from network news outlets through the first four months of 2018 was negative. In a Wednesday morning tweet, Trump said the negative reporting about his administration is 'fake.' (POLITICO)
  • EPA watchdog knocked top aides to administrator Scott Pruitt for slow-walking travel probe last year. "EPA's internal watchdog complained last year that Scott Pruitt's top aides were delaying handing over documents to auditors probing the administrator's travel practices, according to newly released emails. That standoff between the EPA inspector general's office and Pruitt's team was resolved a month after the IG's staff flagged the issue and warned that the reticence to release the documents came close to impeding their probe, the emails show. But the incident highlights early tension between EPA's political appointees and the internal watchdog, which is now conducting multiple reviews of Pruitt's actions." (POLITICO)
  • Pruitt, looking to pivot away from ethics controversy, huddles with industry groups on deregulatory efforts. "Embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is seeking to shift the limelight away from questions about his ethics and instead focus attention on his efforts to eliminate regulations on oil drillers, farmers, home builders and automakers. Pruitt convened a meeting Wednesday of industry representatives, ranging from the National Mining Association to the Association of American Railroads, with a pledge to collaborate." (Bloomberg)
  • How Michael Cohen and other members of President Trump's "inner circle…made a fortune" by helping corporations understand the administration. "Michael Cohen made more than $2 million working as a Trump whisperer. But he's far from the only one. President Donald Trump's longtime lawyer and fixer is the latest member of the president's inner circle to cash in on connections by selling insight into how Trump operates. The president's 2016 victory rattled corporations enough that clients were eager to pay top dollar to anyone who could help them understand the administration in its first months." (POLITICO)

states and cities

  • Can open data help improve public procurement? Glendale, AZ is getting tactical in an effort to find out. "Like any city, Glendale, Arizona routinely procures for the maintenance and expansion of the city’s public infrastructure, particularly as part of the implementation of its Capital Improvement Plan. Each of the city’s contracts includes data points like when the contract was awarded, what services were included, how much those services would cost, and more. The city passed an open data policy in early 2017 and in the months afterward leaders in Glendale wondered: could the city get better bids on contract opportunities by making this data open? To answer this question Glendale’s open contracting became the second pilot project of the Sunlight Foundation’s Open Cities’ Tactical Data Engagement work. (Sunlight Foundation)
  • The Missouri House of Representatives votes to give state attorney general more open records power. "The Missouri House has passed a bill that would increase the attorney general's power to investigate open records violations. The proposal, approved Tuesday in an 85-59 vote, would give the attorney general's office subpoena power when investigating state agencies for suspected violations of Missouri's open records law. Attorney General Josh Hawley has said his inability to subpoena witnesses inhibited his investigation of Gov. Eric Greitens' office's use of a message-destroying app earlier this year." (Kansas City Star)
  • In Columbus, Ohio on May 23rd? Join open data experts at Ohio 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 FoundationUS Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), Data Coalition, and Buckeye Institute. Join us for a morning of talks and panels explaining the history and benefits of Federal, State and Local government financial transparency policy and an optimistic view of Ohio government’s open data future." (Open Data Initiative)

around the world

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Image via Pixabay
  • Turkish President Erdogan looks to increase his powers ahead of upcoming elections. "Recep Tayyip Erdogan is taking action to expand his presidential powers by decree, before a new parliament is elected next month. A bill submitted to parliament late Tuesday would empower the cabinet to issue decrees with the force of law until the next president is sworn in after the June 24 vote." (Bloomberg)
  • How the mere specter of Russian interference may be undermining a Guatemalan anti-corruption effort. "On April 27, the U.S. Congress’s Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, held a hearing about alleged Kremlin pressures on the U.N. Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a hybrid legal body that investigates and tries high-level corruption cases…Some members of Congress seem to agree that the CICIG has become a tool of Russian President Vladimir Putin. On May 4, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced a hold on $6 million in U.S. contributions to Guatemala’s CICIG. The twists and turns of this case illustrate the unintended consequences of heightened concerns about Russian interference. There is little evidence to suggest the CICIG has become part of the Russian state’s “long arm.” But the allegations of Russian interference may effectively doom the CICIG’s anti-corruption mission altogether, by flipping its most consequential source of foreign support: the U.S. government." (The Washington Post)
  • An investigative journalist who focuses on corruption was shot outside her home in Montenegro on Tuesday. "An investigative journalist was shot in the leg outside her home in Montenegro on Tuesday evening. Olivera Lakić, who writes about corruption and criminal activity for Montenegrin outlet Vijesti, was wounded outside her home in the capital city of Podgorica and taken to hospital, according to local media. She is reported to be out of danger." (POLITICO)

washington watch

Animation via Alvin Chang/
  • Congress threatens a subpoena after this DoJ official declined to appear to answer questions about the Census. "A top House Republican said he was willing to subpoena one of President Donald Trump’s Justice Department appointees to appear before Congress and answer questions about the department’s controversial request to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, made the comments Tuesday after John Gore, the acting attorney general for civil rights, failed to appear at a committee hearing on preparations for the 2020 census." (Huffington Post) Over at Vox, Alvin Chang used charts and animations to explain how recent actions, including the addition of a citizenship question, have undermined the 2020 Census effort. 
  • T-Mobile is paying this former FCC commissioner for his help pushing their proposed merger with Sprint. "Readers of Fortune on Monday were treated to an op-ed titled 'I'm a Former FCC Commissioner, and I Think the T-Mobile-Sprint Merger Is Great for America.' The author is Robert McDowell, a Republican who served on the Federal Communications Commission from 2006 to 2013. McDowell's position on T-Mobile's $26 billion purchase of Sprint is no surprise because T-Mobile is paying him to help secure government approval of the merger." (Ars Technica)
  • A proposed database tracking food stamp recipients faces criticism over privacy, hacking concerns. "A proposed database that would collect information about people who receive federal food assistance is coming under fire from advocates for the program who say it would unduly violate recipients’ privacy. The nationwide database, which would include recipients’ Social Security numbers and income information, would also be a prime target for hackers, critics say." (NextGov)


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