Today in OpenGov: Not to be ignored


In today's edition,  the White House ignores the GAO, California opens its software, a Russian journalist was murdered in the Ukraine…until he wasn't, and more. 

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washington watch

  • The White House has been ignoring requests from the Government Accountability Office. "The White House is ignoring requests from the government’s chief watchdog, according to a letter from the agency, which said officials are either refusing to cooperate or not responding to inquiries at all. Government Accountability Office General Counsel Thomas Armstrong made his complaints in a letter to White House Counsel Donald McGahn, which was made public by Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee." According to Armstrong, White House policy is to ignore requests from the GAO, a break from past precedent. (Government Executive) Our take? The White House's decision to break from past policy and ignore GAO requests is the latest example of the Trump administration's disdain for objective oversight structures and transparency. 
  • The State Department wants to modernize with an eye towards improving its data management. "In a world where federal agencies still use IT systems from the 1970s (or even earlier), the rush to modernize legacy technology systems can seem to be boiled down to: out with the old, in with the new. But that’s only one part of the IT modernization story. Data is the other part. At the State Department, the agency is using the push to modernize old technology as an opportunity to enhance its data management and recognize data as a vital element of its operations." (FedTech)
  • Father of school shooting survivor launches super PAC, takes aim at the NRA. "The father of a Florida school shooting survivor who called out Sen. Marco Rubio for receiving National Rifle Association money is launching a super PAC that plans to target NRA-backed federal candidates and wants to change the law to severely restrict the purchase and possession of many semiautomatic rifles." (POLITICO)
  • Citizenship and Immigration Services starts to roll out online FOIA system. "The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced Wednesday that it has launched a new system that will allow the agency to process Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests online. The Freedom of Information Act Immigration Records SysTem (FIRST) will “eventually” allow users to submit requests and receive documents online. Up to this point, USCIS has accepted requests via mail, fax and email, and generally delivers the documents on a compact disc in the mail — so this is a big step forward." (FedScoop)

states and cities

California's new open source software portal. Screenshot via GovFresh 
  • California sets standard with new open source software and code reuse policy. Luke Fretwell has the details; The California Department of Technology has set a new standard for state government technology offices, releasing an open source and code reuse policy 'to better support cost efficiency, effectiveness, and the public’s experience with government programs…' The new policy also establishes the creation of a state public code repository, located at" (GovFresh)
  • Head of California's campaign watchdog steps down as election looms. "The head of California's campaign watchdog agency resigned her position on Tuesday. Jodi Remke, who Gov. Jerry Brown appointed in 2014, stepped down as the chair of the Fair Political Practices Commission amid ongoing turmoil. She often verbally sparred at public meetings with other commissioners, who were leading an effort to reduce her leadership role. The five-member commission was expected to vote next week to finalize a new power structure…The resignation also falls one week before Election Day, a period which typically draws dozens of campaign ethics complaints to the agency." (Sacramento Bee)
  • Leading Democratic candidate for governor of New Mexico profited from state run insurance program while serving in Congress. "Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the leading Democratic candidate for governor in New Mexico, profited from the state’s use of a high-priced health-insurance program for seriously ill patients, even after Obamacare made such programs virtually obsolete. As most states were shuttering their subsidized health-insurance programs for people with pre-existing conditions because they could get coverage through Obamacare, a firm co-founded by Lujan Grisham and a close political ally received millions of dollars to run New Mexico’s program, even as she served in Congress." (POLITICO)
  • Alabama ordered to release information about its lethal injection procedures. "Alabama officials were ordered Wednesday to release information about the state’s lethal injection procedure as a federal judge granted news organizations’ request to unseal records in the wake of an aborted execution. U.S. Judge Karon O. Bowdre ruled that the public has a 'common law right of access to the sealed records relating to Alabama’s lethal injection protocol.' However, Bowdre said the state can keep some information secret in the interest of security, such as the names of low-level prison employees involved in executions." (The Associated Press)

around the world

Russian Journalist Arkady Babchenko, very much alive at a news conference yesterday. Image via the Atlantic.
  • "Murder" of Russian journalist revealed as part of elaborate sting operation by Ukranian security officials. Yesterday, we shared news of the apparent shooting of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko in the Ukraine. Then Babchenko appeared — very much alive — at a news conference to help tell a significantly more complicated story. At the news conference, "Ukrainian authorities said they had staged the killing as a sting operation…[that] had prevented Babchenko from actually being murdered…[an] alleged hit had been ordered by the Russian security services, but an organizer of the assassination who was detained was a Ukrainian national." (POLITICO) "The episode seemed to accentuate the smoke-and-mirrors atmosphere hanging over eastern Europe and Russia—a place where disinformation seems to flow freely, and Russia, which maintains an entrenched presence in eastern Ukraine, has long depended on propaganda to draw support from pro-Russian separatists and attack the pro-Western Ukrainian government." (The Atlantic)
  • Papua New Guinea announces plan to block Facebook for a month. "The government of the country, which has a population of about eight million, has announced that it will block access to Facebook for a month. In comments made to the country’s Post-Courier newspaper, Papua New Guinea’s communication minister, Sam Basil, suggested that a month-long period of Facebook-free existence would allow the government to investigate both the positive and negative effects of using the social network. But the minister also appeared to suggest that part of what he has in mind is identifying bad actors who post false or offensive information on the platform so that they can be removed." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • Romanian high court ruling puts corruption watchdog on shaky ground, sparks protests. "Romania’s Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that the president should dismiss top anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruta Kövesi — a leading figure in fighting graft among high-ranking politicians. Justice Minister Tudorel Toader had in February called for the removal of Kövesi, whose National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) has earned praise from the European Commission for its work…The ruling limits the president’s role in appointing and dismissing top prosecutors, effectively putting all the power to do so in the hands of the justice minister, a political appointee." (POLITICO)


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