Today in OpenGov: An American tale

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In today's edition, President Trump gets his financial disclosure in before the deadline, we plan a webinar on open contracting in city procurement, we join a coalition opposing Gina Haspel's confirmation as CIA director over torture and a lack of transparency, Ghana's new leader takes a serious approach to an anti-graft fight, and more. 

trumpland

President Trump.
  • President Trump filed his financial disclosures on time yesterday. What's in them remains to be seen. "President Donald Trump met a deadline to file his annual ethics statement on Tuesday, a document that could shed light on his net worth and his financial relationship with an adult film actress…The paperwork filed on Tuesday with the Office of Government Ethics could force Trump to reconcile, in writing, months of conflicting accounts from the president and his lawyers about what he knew about money changing hands with Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford. Details of the filing might not be publicly known for several weeks." (POLITICO)
  • $1 million mystery gift to Trump's inauguration traced to high profile conservative legal activists. "One of the largest contributions to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee in 2016 appears to have been orchestrated by a set of powerful conservative legal activists who have since been put in the driver’s seat of the administration’s push to select and nominate federal judges…While the source of the money used to make the gift was masked from the public, a trail of clues puts the contribution at the doorstep of some of the same actors — most notably Leonard Leo, an executive vice president at the conservative Federalist Society — who have helped promote Trump’s mission, and that of his White House counsel, Don McGahn, to fill judicial vacancies as quickly as he can with staunchly conservative, preferably young jurists." (McClatchy DC)
  • As part of plan to reduce drug prices, Trump administration set to improve drug pricing database. "The Trump administration is poised to launch an improved version of databases showing how much the federal government spends on prescription drugs for seniors and low-income people as part of its recent tough talk on the U.S. drug industry. For the first time, the drug spending dashboards published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will display year-over-year changes in how much the agency spends on individual drugs for Medicare and Medicaid, according to details provided in advance to The Health 202." (Washington Post)
  • EPA inspector general set to check Scott Pruitt's email use for potential records retention problems. "EPA's inspector general said Tuesday it would look into Scott Pruitt's use of nonpublic email accounts, bringing the number of federal probes into the EPA administrator's behavior to an even dozen. Specifically, the inspector general said it would look into whether Pruitt is properly preserving email records as required under federal law and whether the agency is properly searching all of his accounts in response to public records requests." (POLITICO)

states and cities


 
  • Join us on Tuesday, June 5 for a webinar on open contracting in city procurement. The event, "Unseal the Deal! How open contracting can improve your city's procurement process," is slated for Tuesday, June 5 at 1:00 pm EDT. Join the Sunlight Foundation’s Open Cities team, the Open Contracting Partnership, Harvard Kennedy School’s Government Performance Lab, and the City of Glendale, Arizona to discuss how open data can be used to improve contracting outcomes, including tips for how cities anywhere can use this approach. Learn more and register to attend right here.
  • Missouri Governor Eric Greitens admits to using an ephemeral texting app, denies violation of open records laws. "Gov. Eric Greitens used an app that erases text messages to communicate with his taxpayer-funded staff, although he denies any suggestion that doing so violated Missouri’s open records laws…In response to a series of questions from the attorneys suing Greitens, the governor’s lawyers admitted in court filings that prior to Jan. 17, 2018, Greitens 'occasionally used Confide to communicate with members of the Office of Governor about scheduling in a manner that was consistent with the requirements of the Open Records Law.' (Government Technology)
  • Brigham Young University is a private institution, but its police force has full authority under the law. Should that include transparency? "A judge is deciding whether Brigham Young University’s police department should be required to comply with Utah’s open records laws. The law enforcement arm of the private university, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has contended that it is exempt from state records laws — and the Utah Records Committee agreed…The Salt Lake Tribune in 2016 filed a lawsuit in 3rd District Court, arguing that the police force should be open to public records requests because it has 'full-spectrum' law enforcement authority under state law. This means BYU officers may stop, search, arrest and use physical force against people, just as any other sworn officer in the state — but currently BYU police do not face the same requirements for transparency." (The Salt Lake Tribune)

washington watch

Washington, DC. Image via the National Parks Service.
  • Sunlight joins coalition opposing to Gina Haspel's nomination as CIA Director over secrecy concerns. We signed on to "a letter that was sent [yesterday] to members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence urging the lawmakers to oppose Gina Haspel’s nomination as CIA Director. The groups are concerned that Haspel supervised torture, facilitated its cover-up, and obstructed access to her record on these matters, showing a lack of respect for transparency, accountability and the rule of law." Read the full letter via Open The Government.
  • After a long delay, the Senate confirmed a new inspector general for the intelligence community. "The Senate Monday night approved by voice vote former Justice Department attorney Michael Atkinson to be inspector general of the 17-agency intelligence community, more than six months after his nomination by President Trump. Atkinson was voted out of committee in February, but has seen his nomination delayed while senators tangled with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence over the fate of the whistleblower ombudsman’s office, from which longtime occupant Dan Meyer was recently fired." (Government Executive)
  • "Russiagate" reporting reveals a uniquely American Story. David Klion digs into the scandal that has been dominating American headlines for the past two years. He writes, "when the staffs of the New York Times and Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize last month for their reporting on the Trump campaign’s alleged Russia ties, there was one striking detail about the winning articles: how few of the reporters involved were Russia correspondents. Almost all the pieces were written by reporters in New York City and Washington, DC, with the occasional additional reporting credit from Moscow…The truth is that most of what Russiagate entails took place in the United States, and most of the important characters in the story are American. What the Mueller investigation continually reveals is the extent of everyday corruption in US business and politics — corruption that often connects to Russian actors but is also distinctly American in origin." (BuzzFeed)
  • Journalists faced with new challenges, opportunities as "fake news" becomes more sophisticated. "Nothing online is quite as it appears, now less than ever. Thanks to a new breed of neural network machine-learning algorithms, compelling yet fictitious video, images, voice, and text can be synthesized whole cloth…But in a way, this technological leap could actually be good news for journalists—and might also provide an opportunity for the kind of goodwill gesture that tech platforms ought to extend to a suspicious public." (Columbia Journalism Review)

around the world

George Soros. Image credit: World Economic Forum.
  • Former French budget minister found guilty of tax fraud, money laundering. "Former French Budget Minister Jérôme Cahuzac on Tuesday was found guilty on charges of tax fraud and money laundering. A Paris Court of Appeals sentenced Cahuzac, who served under former President François Hollande, to four years in prison, two of which are suspended, and slapped him with a €300,000 fine." (POLITICO)
  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán the latest round in his feud with George Soros. But, what's next? Yesterday, we shared the news that Soros' Open Society Foundations would decamp from Budapest to Berlin under increasing pressure from Orbán's government. Today, Rachel Donadio considers what the story means for the EU asking, "has Hungary’s Viktor Orbán won this round against the European Union? The announcement Tuesday that George Soros’s Open Society Foundations (OSF) will move its headquarters out of Budapest and set up shop in Berlin, a victim of the Orbán government’s crackdown on foreign NGOs, certainly seems to indicate as much. The question now is will the European Union push back? And how?" (The Atlantic)
  • Ghana's new president surprises observers with depth of commitment to his anti-graft campaign pledge. "Few Ghanaians were surprised when President Nana Akufo-Addo pledged that he would fulfill his campaign promise to fight graft. But what’s caught their attention was his appointment this year of an opposition stalwart to the newly created role of Special Prosecutor of corruption cases. The establishment of the anti-graft office headed by former Attorney General Martin Amidu is among a string of measures that Akufo-Addo, 74, has taken to bolster the cocoa- and gold-rich West African nation that was weighed down for years by power outages, state bureaucracy and pervasive corruption." (Bloomberg)

 

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