Today in OpenGov: Revealing


In today's edition, how open data can help with your 401k planning, revealing the assets of Brazil's presidential candidates, condemning President Trump's attacks on the press, and more. 

washington watch

Image via Data Coalition.
  • Trying to plan for your retirement? The OPEN Government Data Act might help. "The American retirement system is a massive public-private partnership. The government incentivizes employers to offer retirement plans with tax incentives, who in turn use third-party plan providers, consultants, and investment managers to construct a mechanism to help ordinary workers save for retirement. How does the government orchestrate this massive effort, which includes more than a half million employers according to public filings, and assess the system’s strengths and weaknesses? The government collects data on retirement plans, like the information collected on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Form 5500, and tries to use that data to assess risk…Right now, most critical information on the Form 5500 — the investment options a participant can access — is on digital paper, and it is difficult to extract the data. The OPEN Government Data Act would require data, like that on the Form 5500, to be presented electronically. That would, in turn, more easily help third-parties advise retirement savers and help advisors determine the relative quality of 401(k) plans, or even whether a rollover from one 401(k) to another made sense." (Data Coalition)
  • New report shows that Inspectors General face uncertain and opaque funding, hindering their effectiveness. "Despite a recent law requiring more transparent budgeting, various inspectors general are being targeted for budget cuts by the Trump White House, some of them at agencies the administration proposed for funding hikes, according to a report released Wednesday by Democratic staff on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee." (Government Executive)
  • Google releases information on political ads being bought on its platforms. "Google has released a library of political advertisements purchased on its platforms, revealing how much groups are spending on online campaign efforts and where they’re focusing. The archive is a new part of the company's regular transparency report and comes in response to concerns about opaque online political advertisements, which grew in response to revelations of alleged Russian misinformation campaigns." (The Hill)

around the world

Chart credit: Bloomberg.
  • Brazilian presidential contenders declare their assets. "From the candidate whose sole asset consists of a 2009 silver Chevy hatchback to a multi-millionaire yacht owner, Brazil’s presidential race offers a snapshot of the country’s social divisions. In the list of assets declared to the electoral authorities, Guilherme Boulos, from the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL), filed just one: a second-hand car worth R$15,400 ($4,000), while Joao Amoedo, from the New Party, recorded close to half a billion reais in apartments, jewels and a four-million reais boat. Among the oddities declared was a tract of land valued at just one real by former Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles." (Bloomberg)
  • Voice of America journalists detained in China while trying to interview retired professor. "Voice of America's Mandarin Service correspondent and a multimedia journalist working for VOA were detained Monday evening by Chinese police while attempting to interview a retired Chinese professor who was taken away by authorities during a live television interview with VOA nearly two weeks ago. Correspondent Yibing Feng and VOA contractor Allen Ai were taken into custody in Jinan, Shandong province after talking to professor Sun Wenguang, 84, through a closed door of his apartment. Sun told Feng details of his detention and thanked VOA for allowing him to express his freedom of speech on the air." (Voice of America News)
  • Court grants release of Amnesty International's Turkish chair. "A court in Istanbul granted the release of Amnesty International Turkey’s chair, Taner Kılıç, the human rights group said Wednesday. Kılıç was detained and jailed in June last year, and still faces charges of belonging to a terrorist organization. Turkish prosecutors accuse him of downloading a messaging app they say is linked to supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan claims organized the failed 2016 military coup." (POLITICO)


Image credit: Shutterstock, via the Center for Public Integrity. 
  • More than 200 news organizations speak out against President Trump's anti-media rhetoric. "Led by The Boston Globe, more than 200 newspapers are publishing editorials condemning President Donald Trump for his hostile rhetoric directed at the news media. The Center for Public Integrity, in an unprecedented move, has decided to issue a statement speaking out against the president's attacks" You can read the Center for Public Integrity's entire statement here
  • Political appointee at the head of office that has reportedly been used for patronage under Trump administration steps down. "A political appointee overseeing a small foreign assistance agency that has been used by the White House as a source of jobs for Trump administration supporters is resigning, according to an email he sent to agency employees on Tuesday. Robert Blau, a retired Foreign Service officer and speechwriter for Trump’s presidential campaign, was named vice president of operations at the Millennium Challenge Corporation in May 2017…Blau’s announcement followed a July 28 Washington Post story that detailed how the White House had assumed control over hiring at the headquarters of Millennium Challenge Corporation, or MCC, a small independent agency that promotes economic growth in poor countries." (Washington Post)
  • New data shows that the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy has limited the DOJ's ability to prosecute other crimes. "New data suggests the Trump Administration’s 'zero-tolerance' policy on border prosecutions is forcing Justice Department lawyers to limit their work on other cases. In addition to the human costs of separating families while parents faced trial, it appears that the explosion of prosecutions of border-crossing violations is hampering the federal government’s ability to prosecute other crimes, including gang violence, drug trafficking, human smuggling, and other serious cross-border offenses. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, non-immigration prosecutions in the southwest border districts fell sharply after the policy went into effect." (Project on Government Oversight)
  • President Trump to review or revoke the security clearances of numerous former government officials who served under President Obama. "President Donald Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, who has become a harsh critic of the president, and appeared to be targeting others who have disagreed with the administration…In addition, Sanders said, the administration is evaluating clearances for former FBI Director James Comey, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former FBI attorney Lisa Page, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, whose security clearance was deactivated after he was fired earlier this year, and Bruce Ohr, who is still in the Justice Department although he was demoted from associate deputy attorney general." (POLITICO)


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