Today in OpenGov: To open data and beyond!


In today's edition, we look beyond open data policy, we join a group suggesting House rules reform, President Trump hosts a fundraiser, Europe moves to discipline one of its "illiberal" leaders, and more. 

states and cities

  • How Sunlight's Open Cities team is looking beyond open data policy. Open Cities Director Katya Abazajian explained how, "earlier this year, Sunlight’s Open Cities team updated its mission to reflect a shifting tide within our team and in the greater open government community. When our team’s work began in 2013, advocates for government transparency faced challenges accessing and acquiring information that should rightfully be in the public domain. Five years on, we still face challenges in basic access to information in local government, but we’re looking forward with broader goals for how cities share information and engage residents…The Open Cities team is looking beyond making information accessible in the service of democracy, toward helping cities develop a holistically more open culture through data and technology." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • 25 special interest groups spent more than $70 million to influence New Jersey elections in 2017. "The top 25 special interest groups in 2017 spent more than $74 million trying to influence elections and government policy in New Jersey, according to a new analysis by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). The analysis seeks to measure the full clout of the pressure groups by totaling their direct contributions and independent spending, which influence elections, and lobbying, which influences policy." (New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission)
  • Arizona is investigating Google's location tracking policies. "Google's alleged practice of recording location data about Android device owners even when they believe they have opted out of such tracking has sparked an investigation in Arizona, where the state's attorney general could potentially levy a hefty fine against the search giant." (Washington Post)

washington watch

Issue One's dark money database.
  • We joined a bipartisan coalition suggesting a package of reforms to House rules. "Twenty outside groups that seek to promote good government sent a letter to House lawmakers Wednesday morning, urging them to take back their individual power and overhaul the chamber’s rules.  The letter, led by Demand Progress, outlines 10 principles that members should follow in crafting a new rules package.  Groups that signed the letter include the Sunlight Foundation, Government Accountability Project, Campaign Legal Center, The OpenGov Foundation and Public Citizen, among others. Eight congressional experts also signed the letter." (Roll Call)
  • New study finds that most dark money comes from just 15 groups. "The explosion of so-called “dark money” in political campaigns can be largely traced to spending from 15 groups, according to a study released Wednesday by a non-partisan watchdog group. The analysis by Issue One is the first attempt to catalog the influential and secretive spending by labor unions, corporations, mega-donors and other special interest groups flooding the American political system in the years since the landmark 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. Such a task is notoriously difficult because the organizations behind such spending are not legally required to disclose the sources of their money." (Roll Call)
  • Common Cause releases Democracy Scorecard for members of Congress for just second time in 48 years. "With Election Day now less than two months away, Common Cause released its 2018 Democracy Scorecard to chart the positions of every Member of Congress on issues vital to the health of our democracy. The reforms in question range from legislation to create a small donor matching fund system and increased disclosure requirements for outside political groups to bills to curb gerrymandering and strengthen the protections in the Voting Rights Act." (Common Cause)


  • The White House removed an archive of its popular daily newsletter without advanced notice. "The White House late last year eliminated an archive of its widely read newsletter, 1600 Daily, that had been previously hosted on its website. 1600 Daily content is now only featured on a single page that changes roughly once every weekday, with no way to access previous editions and no apparent public archive on any .gov website. The daily postings offer summaries of news from the administration’s perspective, along with links to third party reporting. The Web Integrity Project’s most recent report, published today, documents the archive’s removal. Old editions of the daily newsletters, which were previously each hosted at their own URL within the archive, are now unavailable, and their former URLs return 404 errors, indicating that the URLs no longer direct to live content." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • President Trump attended a $100K per person fundraiser at his Washington hotel. "President Trump on Wednesday night will attend a fundraiser at Trump International Hotel that is charging $100,000 per person. The money will go towards Trump Victory, a joint fundraising committee for the president's 2020 presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC)." (The Hill)
  • Trump's New York City contracts have been suffering since his political rise. "The number of visitors to New York City has broken records every year since 2010, and the economy is steaming ahead. But business is not thriving at the four concessions in New York City operated by the Trump Organization: a golf course, a carousel and two ice skating rinks.At each, sales have dropped or been flat since President Trump’s political rise, according to interviews and an analysis of city records." (New York Times)
  • Senator and frequent Trump critic Ben Sasse (R-NE) will introduce a bill requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns. "Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said he plans to introduce an ethics reform bill requiring presidential and vice presidential candidates to release their tax returns.  Sasse on Wednesday said President Trump's refusal to release his tax returns, a break from longstanding tradition, has soured public trust in Washington." (The Hill)
  • Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is reportedly preparing for his next job as a coal industry consultant… "Scott Pruitt, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency who championed deregulation of the fossil fuel industry, is in discussions to work as a consultant to the Kentucky coal mining tycoon Joseph W. Craft III…Mr. Craft, the chief executive of Alliance Resource Partners and a major Republican donor, enjoyed a close relationship with the E.P.A. during Mr. Pruitt’s tenure. Mr. Craft met with Mr. Pruitt at least seven times in Mr. Pruitt’s first 14 months at the agency and in December provided him with courtside seats at a University of Kentucky basketball game, a school where Mr. Craft is a prominent supporter. The former E.P.A. chief laid out his plans to develop a new consulting firm in one-on-one discussions with several executives during a Kentucky Coal Association meeting last week, according to industry officials familiar with Mr. Pruitt’s appearance and activities there." (New York Times) …amid reports that he owes up to $300k in legal bills. (POLITICO)

around the world

Hungarian President Viktor Orbán. Image credit: European People's Party.
  • The European Parliament makes unprecedented decision to open disciplinary process against Hungary's government. "The European Parliament passed a motion on Wednesday declaring that Hungary is at risk of breaching the EU’s core values, triggering a disciplinary process that could exacerbate deep divisions within the bloc. With 448 votes in favor, the Parliament decided for the first time to initiate a so-called Article 7 process, citing concerns about judicial independence, corruption, freedom of expression, academic freedom, the rights of minorities and migrants, and other issues. A total of 197 members of the European Parliament opposed the motion and 48 abstained." (POLITICO)
  • Is Austria's right-wing government preparing for an assault on press freedom? "When members of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and radical right Freedom Party (FPÖ) were elected into power in 2017, there was little response. There were  almost no protests, except for a few gatherings in the Austrian capital, Vienna. The now majority right-wing populist government has since tightened asylum lawsput migration on hold, and set its sights on restricting press freedom." (Global Voices)
  • Under Trump, It's getting harder for foreign journalists to report from the United States. "Since April 2017, when Trump issued his “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, immigration officials have made what seem like small changes to policy that add up to large obstacles for foreign journalists aiming to work for US outlets." (Columbia Journalism Review)


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