Today in OpenGov: It’s a Family Affair


Editors note: After two weeks off, we'll try something a little bit different today before jumping back into our usual look at the day's news tomorrow. So, please read on for some of today's top headlines as well as quick links to all of the most interesting #OpenGov stories that emerged while we were out of your inbox! 

early editioN

Examples of the open data user personas that we created during our collaboration with Reboot and Madison, Wisconsin.


  • Help us build out our roster of open data user personas! Greg Jordan-Detamore and Sam Shapiro explain, "Open data has a potential for use by a wide range of community members — but only if their diverse user needs are met. Yet too often, open data portals and programs provide data in a way that doesn’t always work for everyone. We’re looking to change that. This summer, we’re doing a project to collect all existing examples of cities’ user personas for open data and government websites, and help develop best practices for other cities that are looking to create them. We’re interested in both general personas and those that are subject-specific (for example, personas for health data users)." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • The FEC declines to investigate President Trump's political campaign for enriching his businesses. "The FEC will not investigate President Donald Trump’s political campaign for enriching his businesses after considering a complaint from a liberal watchdog group, which alleged that Trump’s boasting about his hotels and use of his private jets constituted a violation of campaign law. The agency released its decision Friday, two years after the complaint was filed during the 2016 primaries, when then-candidate Trump plugged Trump-branded wine, steaks and golf courses during political events and held press conferences at Trump properties." (POLITICO) We're disappointed, but not surprised to see the FEC abdicate its responsibility in this case, which focused on Trump's behavior early in the 2016 primaries. Since then, the Trump's campaign has funneled more than $13 million to Trump's businesses.
  • Are you a lobbyist looking to influence the Trump administration? The Vice President's office might be your first stop. "Vice President Pence has transformed his office into a new entry point for lobbyists seeking to influence the Trump administration across federal agencies, according to federal records and interviews. About twice as many companies and other interests hired lobbyists to contact the vice president’s office in Pence’s first year than in any single year during the tenures of Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Richard B. Cheney, filings show." (Washington Post)
  • Austria demands answers following reports of German spying between 1999 and 2006. "Austria’s Sebastian Kurz has urged Germany to clarify allegations its intelligence services spied on ministries, embassies and international institutions in Vienna.​ Reports by Austrian outlets Der Standard and Profil claim Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) tapped into some 2,000 phone, fax and mobile connections as well as email accounts to monitor ministries, embassies, organizations and Islamic institutions, among others, since 1999." (POLITICO)
  • Facebook follows up on Senate questions with 500 page response, but evades some critical issues. "Earlier this week, Facebook submitted nearly 500 pages worth of written responses to dozens of US senators’ questions stemming from CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s April 2018 testimony before two committees. In the documents, the company attempted to provide clarity to the lingering concerns many lawmakers had. While seemingly trying to be forthright overall, Facebook was also evasive when responding to certain critical questions. Notably, Facebook declined to promise to share the results of its post-Cambridge Analytica investigation with the public or even Congress. The social media giant also wouldn’t say if it had ever turned off a feature for privacy reasons." (Ars Technica)

It's a family affair

The Trump Foundation is being sued by the Attorney General of New York. 

  • The New York State Attorney General is suing the Trump Foundation and Trump family for using the nonprofit as a "checkbook" for personal and political gain. (BuzzFeed, New York Times)​
  • Financial disclosures show Ivanka Trump made almost $4 million last year from her stake in President Trump's Washington hotel. (Bloomberg) Along with her husband Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump reported $82 million worth of outside income last year. (Washington Post)
  • In the emoluments case over Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, a judge questioned Justice Department arguments that President's stake is constitutional. (New York Times)
  • On the Sunlight Blog, Lynn Walsh checked in with two editions of her weekly look at Trump administration conflicts of interest. In the first, she highlighted Chinese cellphones and Chick-fil-A, while last week she dug deeper on the Trump Foundation and emoluments. 

just pruitt already

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt continues to deal with an increasing number of scandals.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt used aides and donors to try and land his wife a job. (Washington Post) According to current and former aides, Pruitt expected EPA staff to help with personal matters and work to obtain favors for his family. (New York Times
  • House Democrats are calling for an investigation of reports that Pruitt tried to leverage his office to help his wife secure a (notoriously hard to get) Chick-fil-A franchise. (BuzzFeed)
  • Major GOP donor and prominent Trump supporter Doug Deason reportedly helped Pruitt pick EPA science advisors. (POLITICO)
  • The top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee asked Pruitt for more information on allegations that the EPA is slow-walking or rejecting potentially embarrassing public records requests. (Government Executive)

elsewhere in trumpland

The Department of Justice's headquarters in Washington, DC. 
  • The FBI Inspector General released a 500 page report on conduct during investigation Hillary Clinton email investigation. The report found no indication of political bias, but focused heavy criticism on then-director James Comey. (POLITICO, The Atlantic)
  • President Trump's pick to head the National Weather Service has spent years trying to dismantle it — and its open data — as the CEO of AccuWeather. (Bloomberg)
  • President Trump's charm offensive against GOP mega-donors who spurned him in 2016 appears to be paying off. (POLITICO)
  • A Senate aide accused of lying to the F.B.I in a high-profile leak case pled not-guilty. (New York Times) Earlier this year, as part of the case, the Justice Department seized records from journalist Ali Watkins, raising First Amendment Concerns. (POLITICO) Our friends at the Project on Government Oversight weighed in on the broader dangers to free speech represented in the case. 
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture for animal welfare data that was removed from the Internet in 2016. (CNN)
  • Following early mishaps, Immigration and Customs Enforcement refuses to release information about the Trump administration's immigration crackdown. (Bloomberg)

washington watch

Image via the Data Coalition
  • Following delays, a public comment process on commitments for the next U.S. Open Government Partnership National Action Plan is open. (E Pluribus Unum)
  • The House Financial Services Committee renewed its push to limit open data on corporate finances. (Data Coalition)
  • Net neutrality has officially been repealed. What comes next? (The Hill)
  • This vulnerable Representative has used his taxpayer-funded mailing privileges to the tune of $400,000 in the past two years. (Roll Call)
  • Congress voted against reviving its Office of Technology Assessment. (NextGov)
  • The IRS revoked tax exempt status from Americans for Job Security, a notorious dark money group. (Issue One)
  • Russian heavyweights met with NRA representatives during the 2016 campaign. (McClatchy DC)
  • The Department of Defense IG wanted to ask the public some simple questions, but faced a significant hurdle in the Paperwork Reduction Act. It wasn't an isolated incident. (Government Executive)
  • The House moved to open federal government data on opioid abuse. (NextGov)

states and cities

  • Rounding up the effects of public records obtained via Washington, D.C.'s FOIA. (D.C. Open Government Coalition)
  • Decision on California consumer privacy ballot initiative looms. (Government Technology)
  • As net neutrality repeal takes effect, so does first state law countering it. (Ars Technica)
  • One of the leading candidates for the Georgia GOPs gubernatorial nomination bought a condo from a lobbyist, seemingly for a steep discount. (New York Times

around the world

Shujaat Bukhari, Srinagar based Journalist/Writer and Editor-in-Chief of Rising Kashmir. Image via Global Voices.
  • Prominent Kashmiri journalist shot to death by suspected militants. (Global Voices)
  • European justice commissioner rebukes Malta over money-laundering, corruption issues. (POLITICO)
  • This anti-corruption NGO is calling for an investigation into campaign spending during France's 2017 presidential election. (POLITICO)
  • How local newspapers are using FOI to uncover local council spending. (mySociety)
  • Spain's new culture minister steps down after only a week following revelation of tax evasion fines. (POLITICO)
  • As blog tax deadline approaches, leading independent websites in Tanzania shut down. (Global Voices)


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