Today in OpenGov: Do you trust me?


In today's edition, Norfolk, Virginia looks to get more resilient through open data, some important information goes missing from, fundraising prowess is already becoming an issue as potential candidates jockey for position in 2020 Democratic presidential contest, and more. 

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states and cities

Flooding in Norfolk after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Image via the Norfolk Department of Emergency Management.
  • How Tactical Data Engagement is set to help Norfolk, VA leverage open data for a more resilient future. Noel Isama and Alex Dodds explain, "Norfolk, VA is a waterfront city that’s home to the world’s largest naval base, and in the 350 years since its founding, Norfolk has grown into the economic and cultural hub of the region known as Hampton Roads…Norfolk’s history, location, and economic growth are both assets and challenges. The city has seen cycles of development and redevelopment that have created pockets of concentrated poverty, and sea-level rise and subsiding land create areas of frequent flooding. Norfolk seeks to address these challenges through the framework of resilience, to help the city live with water and offer economic opportunity for all in ways that support strong neighborhoods. One way Norfolk is building for a more resilient future is with a new open data program. In March we selected Norfolk to pilot Tactical Data Engagement. Here’s where we started on that work, and where we are planning to go." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • New Jersey governor shifts assets into a blind trust, fulfilling campaign promise. "New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a retired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. senior director, has placed millions of dollars of family wealth in a blind trust managed by his brother-in-law, public documents show. Murphy, 60, a Democrat who took office in January, had promised to make the transfer while campaigning to replace term-limited Republican Chris Christie." (Bloomberg)
  • Jury deliberations set to being in corruption case involving Long Island, New York officials. "The scheme, as outlined by federal prosecutors, was audacious. Top officials in Nassau County used political clout to help a restaurateur obtain county contracts and millions of dollars in loans. In return, the restaurateur was said to have showered the officials with kickbacks and bribes…Jurors at the Federal District Court here on Long Island were expected to begin deliberating the fate of the defendants as soon as Thursday after a 10-week trial in front of Judge Joan M. Azrack. Sixty witnesses testified, including the restaurateur, Harendra Singh, who was on the stand for 12 days." (New York Times)
  • Washington, D.C. City Council takes steps towards limiting the independence of city open government watchdog. "Voting Tuesday (15) for a measure to place the beleaguered Office of Open Government squarely under the Board of Ethics and Government Accountability (BEGA), the Council abandoned the concept of 'an independent agency to promote open governance in the District of Columbia' that it enacted eight years ago…This plan, if finally enacted, will be a dramatic shift from the independent watchdog written into the original agency charter in 2010." (D.C. Open Government Coalition)


Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine snapshot of the removed “The Affordable Care Act & Medicare” page from December 18, 2017.
  • Information on the Affordable Care Act has been quietly removed from Rachel Bergman explains, "if you’re one of the over 55 million people who is covered by Medicare, you might want to know a bit about if and how your coverage is affected by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). What preventive services are covered by Medicare under the ACA? How does the ACA help make treatments from different health care providers more consistent for Medicare beneficiaries? What do people with Medicare need to do and not do on the Health Insurance Marketplace created by the ACA? But if you’re looking for the answers to these questions, you won’t see them on, where they were recently easy to find." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • In unusual move, Treasury Department officials restricted access to records about Michael Cohen's suspicious financial activities, prompting leak. "Records pertaining to the financial activities of President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen are not missing from a government database; rather Treasury Department officials have taken the highly unusual step of restricting access to them even from certain law enforcement agencies, according to three sources familiar with the matter. The New Yorker magazine this week reported that a law enforcement official — worried the information about Cohen’s banking records had been removed from government databases and therefore might be covered up — had admitted to leaking some of what was still accessible." (BuzzFeed)
  • President Trump earned $40 million from his Washington, DC hotel last year. "The president's income from his company's hotel in Washington, D.C. topped $40 million last year, according to a copy of his annual financial disclosure report released on Wednesday, making the property a clear winner among a portfolio which showed mixed results." Why does this matter? As Steve Reilly and Nick Penzenstadler point out in their article, "The Trump International Hotel, located less than one mile from the White House, has emerged a favorite of the Washington power players, including lobbyists and interest groups since its opening in October 2016." (USA Today)
  • Following furniture spending scandal, the Department of Housing and Urban Development looks to tighten its financial oversight. "The Housing and Urban Development Department fell into hot water when officials approved $31,000 in spending on new furniture for Secretary Ben Carson’s office. Carson initially denied any role in the spending before ceding to public pressure and canceling the order. In the aftermath of that controversy, HUD established a task force to combat wasteful spending in the department." (Government Executive)
  • This week's Trump administration conflicts have a heavy focus on China. Lynn Walsh checks in with her regular look at Trump administration conflicts of interest, which include "President Donald Trump fil[ing] his financial disclosures, a Trump Organization construction partner struck a deal with a Chinese state-owned construction company to build a theme park next to planned Trump properties—just as the president publicly shared his mission to help bring jobs back to China, and a watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against President Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen." (Sunlight Foundation)

washington watch

  • Scam PACs operated by two Arizona men reportedly defrauded donors of up to $23 million. "Two Arizona men were charged on Thursday for allegedly operating several fraudulent political action committees that prosecutors say defrauded donors out of more than $23 million.  The men, William Tierney, 46, and Robert Tierney, 40, were arrested in Arizona and charged in New York City federal court with wire fraud conspiracy, mail fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, prosecutors said." (The Hill)
  • Los Angeles, CA Mayor Eric Garcetti, eyeing 2020 presidential bid, is boosting his chances with connections to Hollywood donors. "Eric Garcetti is employing a unique and potentially potent home-state advantage as he prepares for an expected presidential campaign — delivering Hollywood’s expansive donor network to Democratic Party officials from early primary states…Presidential candidates have long sought ways to ingratiate themselves with early presidential primary state officials, but Garcetti is taking an unorthodox route. He’s drawing small-state parties across state lines and offering them an opportunity to tap into one of the nation’s most lucrative donor bases, while providing himself a rare platform to connect with operatives in the key early-voting states that make or break presidential campaigns." (POLITICO)
  • The Federal Trade Commission just appointed a corporate lawyer to head its new consumer protection bureau. "In a rare party-line vote, the Federal Trade Commission appointed a corporate lawyer who has represented Uber, Equifax, Facebook, and a jailed payday lender to run its Bureau of Consumer Protection. The appointment was one of the first moves of the new five-member panel, all of whom were confirmed by the Senate last month…Only the appointment of Andrew Smith to the Bureau of Consumer Protection was controversial, with a 3-2 vote along party lines. Democratic appointees Rohit Chopra and Becca Kelly Slaughter opposed Smith, and each laid out their concerns in written dissents." (The Intercept)
  • Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA director over objections around torture, secrecy. "The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel on Thursday to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, elevating a woman to the directorship for the first time despite bipartisan misgivings about her role in the agency’s brutal detention and interrogation programs in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks." (New York Times

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