Today in OpenGov: An unlikely pair


In today's edition, an unlikely pair of groups teams up to boost access to government information, how the Heritage foundation is expanding its influence in the Trump administration, digital democracy in Taiwan, and more. 

washington watch

  • The ACLU and Citizens United team up to push for better access to government information. "The ACLU has joined forces with the conservative Citizens United group to gain better access to government information. They teamed up because both groups have run into problems from the government when seeking information through Freedom of Information Act requests. In one instance, Citizens United Chief General Counsel Michael Boos said the State Department told the group it would take '40 to 50 years' to fulfill the organizations’s request. Boos blames the government’s failure to update its system for processing these information requests." (The Hill)
  • Political ads are flooding local TV ahead of this fall's midterm elections. "The intensity of the fight for the U.S. House is playing out on the nation’s television screens where the number of campaign ads is up more than 50 percent from where it was at the same point in the most recent comparable election year." (Bloomberg)
  • How Senate Democrats learned to stop worrying and (legally?) coordinate with super PACs. "Coordination between campaigns and outside groups is illegal, though both parties’ election lawyers regularly give candidates a green light to evade that ban by sharing information in the public domain — for example, posting long YouTube clips clearly meant for use by friendly super PACs. Now, McCaskill and other Democratic senators are pushing the limits by essentially posting instruction manuals on how they prefer allied groups to attack their opponents, which super PACs have then turned into ads within a matter of days or weeks." (POLITICO)
  • Ensuring that government uses emerging technology in ethical ways. Darcie Piechowski explains that, "emerging technologies offer agencies many opportunities to enhance services, but what happens when we take humans out of the equation? Some may think that because technology is not human it cannot be ethical." but she argues, "that’s not the case." (Government Executive)


Image credit: Sam Kaplan and Johnny Machado, via the New York Times.
  • Following report of questionable business ties, a top Trump aide announces his retirement. "Joe Hagin, a top aide to President Donald Trump, will be leaving the White House next month, an announcement that comes a day after BuzzFeed News reported he had previously worked with key backers of an alleged 'sex cult'…Hagin had been looking to leave the White House and was eyeing the vacant position of deputy director of the CIA, the Washington Post reported earlier this month. But Hagin is now planning to end his career in federal government and return to the private sector." (BuzzFeed)
  • How the Heritage Foundation was able to further its agenda by placing its staff and allies throughout President Trump's government. Jonathan Mahler explains how, in the wake of President Trump's surprise election victory, "the Trump team may not have been prepared to staff the government, but the Heritage Foundation was. In the summer of 2014, a year before Trump even declared his candidacy, the right-wing think tank had started assembling a 3,000-name searchable database of trusted movement conservatives from around the country who were eager to serve in a post-Obama government. The initiative was called the Project to Restore America, a dog-whistle appeal to the so-called silent majority that foreshadowed Trump’s own campaign slogan." (New York Times)
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt set to testify before Senate committee in August. "Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is slated to testify in August in front of the main Senate committee that oversees the agency, the panel announced Tuesday. The committee scheduled the hearing following months of spending and ethics controversies involving Pruitt. Senate Democrats have long sought to put Pruitt in the hot seat over the scandals, and Republicans are expressing increasing concern as well." (The Hill)

around the world

Participants at vTaiwan Open Consultation & Participation Officers Training, June 11-12, NYC. Photo by Christian Svanes Kolding, via Civicist
  • Learning from a Taiwanese approach to digital democracy. Micah Sifry shared his experience from "a training workshop on the vTaiwan public engagement process and Taiwan’s Public Digital Innovation Space (PDIS), the innovation lab inside the central Taiwanese government…It was the first time that members of g0v and PDIS had done a training in English on this innovative approach to digital democracy, but hopefully there will be more opportunities to attend one soon. That’s because this scrappy open source community of coders, organizers and govies has figured out something really exciting: it’s possible to radically transform how government listens to the public and how members of the public listen to each other as they go about making their concerns known to government." (Civicist)
  • For the third year, the World Bank is looking to fund data innovation projects. "The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data and the World Bank Development Data Group are pleased to announce that applications are now open for a third round of support for innovative collaborations for data production, dissemination, and use…The themes for this year’s call for proposals are scaling local data for impact, which aims to target innovations that have an established proof of concept which benefits local decision-making, and fostering synergies between the communities of non-official data and official statistics…" (The World Bank Data Blog)
  • The EU is considering a new copyright law that could cause serious free speech and privacy problems. "On June 20th, a committee of the European Parliament will vote on whether to proceed on a copyright proposal that some say will destroy the internet as we know it. That may sound fairly hyperbolic, but over 70 experts — including World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales — have criticized the proposal, saying it will turn the internet into 'a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users.'" (The Verge)


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