Today in OpenGov: Opening up


In today's edition, lawmakers want to make it easier to ban personal email use at federal agencies, President Trump accused China of interfering in the midterms, Facebook boosts its state level lobbying, multiple open data reports are released, and more. 

Washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • Senate committee approves legislation that will make it easier for agencies to block personal email, Facebook use at the office. "Federal agencies would be able to override union objections to block employees from using personal email accounts or Facebook on work computers under a bill the Senate Homeland Security Committee forwarded Wednesday. The bill, sponsored by Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., would give agencies authority to block websites if there’s a pressing cybersecurity need. The Federal Information Systems Safeguards Act, which is less than 250 words, passed on a voice vote. Though senators did not individually record their votes, several voted against the measure." (NextGov)
  • New reports show that the TSA retaliated against whistleblowers with reassignments, DHS withheld related documents from investigators. "Senior officials at the Transportation Security Administration used reassignments to retaliate against whistleblowers, and the Homeland Security Department is withholding related documents from Congress and the Office of Special Counsel, a House committee found in a pair of reports released on Tuesday. The reports were the climax of a three-year bipartisan investigation by staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that found “recurrent misconduct with minimal consequences,” including sexual harassment and reassignments due to suspicion of unauthorized contact with the news media." (Government Executive)
  • Bipartisan bill would increase the federal Chief Information Officer's clout. "Rep. Will Hurd introduced a bill Wednesday that would codify and elevate the authority of the U.S. federal CIO. Hurd, R-Texas, with Rep. Robin Kelly, D-Ill., has sponsored the Federal CIO Authorization Act of 2018 to create a clearer reporting structure for federal IT officials, including the federal CIO and CIOs at agencies. Specifically, the bill would formally reauthorize and rename the Office of Management and Budget’s Office of E-Government as the Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer. The bill would also make the federal CIO a presidential appointee who reports directly to the head of OMB. As it stands, the federal CIO reports to the deputy director of management at OMB." (FedScoop)
  • Tech companies agree on need for a national data privacy law, but haven't yet expressed how they would like it to look. "Executives from major technology companies including Apple and Google expressed broad support for a national consumer privacy law in a hearing Wednesday morning but offered few concrete specifics for how such a law might be best crafted. In the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica crisis and other data-privacy scandals, lawmakers are no longer questioning whether technology companies should be regulated. The conversation on Capitol Hill has shifted to how they can design a consumer privacy law that would span a broad swath of U.S. tech and telecommunications companies with divergent data-collection practices." (Washington Post)


President Trump and the UN Security Council on September 26, 2018. Image via the White House.
  • President Trump accuses China of interfering in the midterm elections, offers opposition to his trade policies as evidence. "President Donald Trump told the United Nations Security Council that China is attempting to interfere in the 2018 midterm congressional elections and alleged Beijing seeks to help his opponents. His remarks came three days after China placed an advertising supplement in Iowa’s largest newspaper attacking Trump’s trade war with Beijing. The four-page supplement in the Des Moines Register, Iowa’s largest newspaper, highlighted the impact of the U.S.-China trade war on the state’s soy farmers." (Bloomberg)
  • As sexual assault accusations continue to roil Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination, one Senator pursues an unrelated injunction tied to lack of disclosure. "Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Wednesday announced that he's seeking an injunction in federal court designed to stop a final vote on Brett Kavanaugh, asserting an obstruction of his constitutional duty to advise and consent on nominees. Merkley's filing in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia comes as Senate Republicans vow to push ahead with a vote on President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee in the coming days — and hours before a landmark hearing slated with Christine Blasey Ford, who has alleged a decades-old sexual assault by Kavanaugh. Merkley's bid for an injunction hinges on the Senate's constitutional duty to provide advice and consent on nominees and charges that he's been prevented from fulfilling that due to the withholding of records on Kavanaugh's past service in the George W. Bush administration." (POLITICO)
  • IG report indicates that FEMA chief misused government vehicles despite warning. "Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long took government cars for his personal use despite FEMA’s own lawyers telling him it wasn’t appropriate, according to an inspector general’s report released Wednesday evening. The report by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General, released in redacted form by Representative Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, adds new detail to charges that Long misused government resources." (Bloomberg)

states and cities

While Facebook's state level lobbying has been cyclical, the company has expanded its lobbying presence to a number of new states in recent years and is spending considerably more overall. Image via Sludge
  • Facing increasing pressure, Facebook boosts its lobbying in state legislatures. "While Congress is paralyzed by partisan gridlock, state legislatures around the country have put forward legislation to regulate social media platforms by making more information available on political ads, aiming to stop social-media bots or limiting the collection of private data.  Facebook has reacted to the rise of state-level regulatory proposals by increasing its lobbying presence in statehouses. In 2016, following an election marred by a Russian-backed social media disinformation campaign, Facebook increased its lobbying at the state level by nearly 31 percent from the prior year, according to Sludge’s analysis of lobbying expenditures for 20 states with comprehensive lobbying disclosures." (Sludge)
  • Takeaways from the 2018 national Freedom of Information Summit. "The National Freedom of Information Coalition concluded its 2018 FOI Summit in Cincinnati. The annual two-day conference features presentations from open government experts and practitioners on trending government issues in state and local public institutions. Attendees include NFOIC’s state coalition directors, journalists, media lawyers and first amendment watchdogs. This year’s conference included candid discussions about FOI and open government reforms needed in state legislatures and state and local government agencies." (NFOIC)
  • How and when police body cameras are activated can make a big difference. "Last summer, Baltimore police officer Richard Pinheiro submitted body-camera footage as evidence in a drug bust. In Pinheiro’s video, filmed on an Axon Body 2 Camera, he wanders through a junky backyard for a few moments before spotting, among the detritus, a discarded soup can. He picks it up and pulls out a small baggie of white pills that he and the two other officers would later claim belonged to the suspect. Pinheiro and the other officers arrested the man, then submitted the evidence against him—the baggie, their testimony, and the video—to the Baltimore Police Department. What Pinheiro and the other officers didn’t seem to realize was that the Axon II Body Camera has a “failsafe” feature. The camera is always on and always saves the 30 seconds of footage prior to the officer activating the “REC” button. Those 30 seconds told an entirely different story." (The Atlantic)

around the world

Charts from the OECD's Open Government Data Report.
  • New OECD report explores the state of open government data programs across countries… "This report provides an overview of the state of open data policies across OECD member and partner countries, based on data collected through the OECD Open Government Data survey (2013, 2014, 2016/17), country reviews and comparative analysis. The report analyses open data policies using an analytical framework that is in line with the OECD OUR data Index and the International Open Data Charter. It assesses governments’ efforts to enhance the availability, accessibility and re-use of open government data." (OECD) While reading the full report requires a login for the OECD's iLibrary, you can take a look at the executive summary here.
  • …Meanwhile, the GovLab breaks down key open data statistics in its 2018 open data index. You can take a look at "the latest installment in The GovLab Index series, inspired by Harper’s Index. “The GovLab Index: Open Data 2018” provides an update to our previous Open Data installments…" Check it out via the GovLab.
  • Activists are increasingly under threat as Colombian peace process struggles along. "Colombia, one of the most dangerous nations for human rights activists, has attempted to halt its 50-year armed conflict through a complex peace process that began in 2012. As this peace process falters, social activists including local community leaders, land defenders, gender and sexuality rights protectors, teachers and journalists are being targeted and killed at an alarming rate, and the numbers continue to rise. Recently-elected president Ivan Duque’s government is slow to respond to these killings and sometimes denies the systematic nature of the violence, making it difficult to track and monitor these cases." (Global Voices)


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!