Today in OpenGov: A matter of timing


Editor's note: We'll be off for a late summer break over the next two weeks. But, don't worry, we'll be back with all the latest #OpenGov news on Tuesday, September 4th. In the meantime, keep up with the latest from Sunlight over on our Twitter page.

In today's edition, balancing disclosure around cyber vulnerabilities, exploring Michael Cohen's campaign finance issues, sharing Chicago's police data, repealing a "fake news" law, and more. 

washington watch

  • The White House is going to disclose some data about cybersecurity vulnerabilities, but is still trying to find a balanced approach. "This fall, the White House is due to release its first transparency report on the Vulnerabilities Equities Process, the interagency process by which the government decides whether it will retain knowledge of a security vulnerability for future spying purposes or disclose it to the software or device manufacturer so that it may be fixed. The VEP’s charter does not say what this report will contain, only that it will go to the National Security Council, possibly Congress, and given the requirement for an unclassified summary, theoretically the public, too. While the federal IT world and the wider public waits for this new information, it is important to understand what the VEP process does and does not require, and the many disclosure decisions federal agencies get to make before the VEP process even comes into play." (Fed Tech Magazine)
  • This GOP megadonor hasn't seen much return on his primary political investments. "One of the top donors to conservative candidates and causes in the U.S. isn’t having much luck swaying elections. Richard Uihlein, a packing supply magnate and a descendant of one of the founders of the Schlitz beer company, has amassed one of the worst track records among mega-donors in recent years when it comes to backing winning candidates. His latest loss — one of his biggest single-campaign investments — was in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate Republican primary in Wisconsin." (Bloomberg)
  • Facing political pressure from lawmakers, the Congressional Budget Office is looking to boost transparency. "Congress’s nonpartisan budget arm wants you to understand how it crunches the numbers. This year, in a bid for greater transparency, it published unprecedented details of its economic methods at a time when many Republicans are questioning the reliability of the 43-year-old Congressional Budget Office." (Government Executive)
  • New GAO report pushes the Office of Personnel Management on employee misconduct data. "Less than 1 percent of federal employees are disciplined for misconduct every year, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management. However, a new report from the Government Accountability Office flagged multiple holes in the way OPM collects that data and how it follows up with agencies for trainings to address underlying problems." (Federal Computer Week)

states and cities

  • Relaunching the Citizens Police Data Project to shed light on Chicago police misconduct. "Today the Invisible Institute, in collaboration with The Intercept, releases the Citizens Police Data Project 2.0, a public database containing the disciplinary histories of Chicago police officers. The scale of CPDP is without parallel: It includes more than 240,000 allegations of misconduct involving more than 22,000 Chicago police officers over a 50-year period. The data set is complete for the period 2000 to 2016; substantially complete back to 1988, and includes some data going back as far as the late 1960s." (The Intercept)
  • This fight between the DOJ and a Tennessee ethics body may have wider implications. "The Justice Department has picked a fight with an obscure ethics agency in Tennessee about how much evidence — called “discovery” — federal prosecutors should have to hand over to defense attorneys there. It’s the kind of little-noticed move the department makes all the time but could have a lasting impact on the criminal justice system. The department’s grievance is with an opinion published by the Tennessee Supreme Court’s Board of Professional Responsibility earlier this year announcing that prosecutors have a higher ethical obligation to divulge certain kinds of evidence than what’s legally required of them under the Constitution." (The Marshall Project)
  • As West Virginia moves to impeach its Supreme Court, attention must be paid to the flood of political money into state judiciaries. "But while money flowing out of American courts is a problem, we should be paying attention to the bigger issue of money flowing in to judicial campaigns — and even, occasionally, into judge’s personal coffers — from litigants, lawyers and special interests with cases before the very judges who benefit from spenders’ largesse." (NBC News Think)


The Trump campaign released these potential "Space Force" logos to their mailing list on August 9th. Image via ABC News.
  • The latest Trump administration conflicts? Space Force merchandise, Kushner's New Jersey portfolio, and golf discounts. This week, in Lynn Walsh's regular roundup of Trump administration conflicts of interest, President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign announces it plans to sell Space Force merchandise, a look at Kushner Companies’ New Jersey portfolio and discounts for White House staff. (Sunlight Foundation)
  • Michael Cohen may be in deeper campaign finance hot water following reports detailing the timing of his payments to Stormy Daniels. "On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal issued a new report about former Donald Trump attorney Michel Cohen and the 2016 hush payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels: Cohen initially rejected the request for money from Daniels’ attorney, but changed his mind after the “Access Hollywood” tape came to light. The new revelation about Cohen refusing to pay Daniels in September 2016 is big, circumstantial evidence that could further open up Cohen to facing criminal campaign finance charges. This could also reach all the way to Trump himself." (Slate)
  • President Trump continued his ongoing fight with the press…"President Trump on Thursday assailed the media for editorials in newspapers across the country that championed the freedom of the press, a unified response in the face of the president’s relentless attacks. In a series of morning Twitter posts, Mr. Trump said The Boston Globe was 'in collusion' with other newspapers for leading the editorial effort, choosing a word that has become synonymous with the special counsel’s investigation into Russian election interference — an investigation that he has repeatedly called a 'witch hunt' and a 'hoax.'" (New York Times)…and the Senate weighed in to say the press is not the enemy of the people. "The Republican-led Senate unanimously adopted a resolution saying the press “is not the enemy of the people” and instead plays a “vital and indispensable” role to inform the electorate, an indirect swipe at President Donald Trump who just hours earlier attacked the media." (Bloomberg)…meanwhile, a bomb threat was made against the Boston Globe. "A bomb threat was reported at The Boston Globe on Thursday, the same day the newspaper spearheaded a campaign to publish coordinated editorials at multiple papers condemning President Trump's attacks against the press." (The Hill)
  • President Trump postpones his military parade in D.C. after initial reports of its cost are revised upwards by $80 million. "President Donald Trump's military parade — postponed after this article was originally published — is shaping up to cost $80 million more than initially estimated. The Department of Defense and its interagency partners have updated their prospective cost estimates for the parade, according to a U.S. defense official with firsthand knowledge of the assessment. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity. The parade, originally slated for Nov. 10 but now potentially set for 2019, is estimated to cost $92 million, the official said. The figure consists of $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners such as the Department of Homeland Security." (CNBC)

around the world

Image via The Atlantic.
  • China is taking its citizen surveillance efforts to new heights. "China has reportedly begun deploying flocks of drones disguised as birds to surveil its citizens. The drones have wings that flap so realistically they’re difficult to distinguish from actual birds. In fact, animals on the ground often can’t make the distinction, and even real birds in the sky sometimes fly alongside the drones. The robotic birds can mimic 90 percent of the movements of their biological counterparts, and they’re also very quiet, which helps them avoid detection…Headlines about technologies like these gaining traction in China have been appearing in the news with alarming frequency…Even in a country known for its extreme spying on its entire population, the degree of surveillance targeting Muslims in particular is unnerving." (The Atlantic)
  • Malaysia repeals its law banning "fake news." "Malaysia's new government on Thursday repealed a widely criticized law prohibiting 'fake news,' in a move hailed as a landmark moment for human rights by a group of Southeast Asian lawmakers. The bill was rushed through Parliament in April under former Prime Minister Najib Razak despite concerns that it would be used to silence dissent ahead of a May 9 general election. It carried a penalty of up to six years in jail and a fine of 500,000 ringgit ($128,000)." (Bloomberg)
  • Are British secret agents bugging EU Brexit negotiators? "The European Union’s Brexit negotiators fear that they are being bugged by the British secret service after the UK obtained sensitive documents “within hours” of them being presented to a meeting of EU officials last month, The Telegraph understands. A highly placed EU source revealed the security concerns as British negotiators were set to return to Brussels on Thursday to resume Brexit talks." (The Telegraph)


Tired of your boss/friend/intern/uncle forwarding you this email every morning? You can sign up here and have it delivered direct to your inbox! Please send questions, comments, tips, and concerns to We would love your feedback!