Today in OpenGov: On hold
In today's edition, exploring how open data can save time on records requests, funding the midterms with hidden money, putting depositions in a high stakes Census lawsuit on hold, detaining more journalists in Myanmar, and more.
states and cities
Illustrating some of the findings in Alena Stern's white paper on the interaction between open data and public records requests.
- Open data policies and programs can help cities save significantly on public records request. Sunlight Fellow Alena Stern shared her new white paper, which finds that "adopting an open data policy significantly reduces the number of public record requests that cities receive compared to cities that lack an open data policy. This was the major finding of a study I set out to conduct earlier this summer, to understand the relationship between the growth of open data policies and longstanding freedom of information laws. I found that while the average number of public records requests cities receive is growing significantly over time, cities could save time and money by passing an open data policy and investing in a robust open data program." (Sunlight Foundation)
- In California, the debate over a rent control ballot initiative is being dominated by big money donations. "With less than a month left until November’s elections, contributions to a campaigns opposing and supporting California ballot initiative aimed at allowing cities to enact stronger rent control have ratcheted up with nearly $13.8 million in campaign donations made in the first five days of October. At a time where there’s a premium on small donor contributions to show grassroots engagement among voters, Prop 10 has been reliant on big donors." (Sludge)
- Why were this New Jersey political power broker's phones tapped in 2016? "Federal authorities wiretapped the phones of New Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross for several months in 2016, according to a document obtained by POLITICO…According to a source with knowledge of the inquiry, authorities have looked into tax-break legislation that spurred development along Camden’s waterfront through generous incentives from which Norcross’ insurance company benefited. Norcross, whose insurance brokerage has millions of dollars in public contracts across the state, is one of the most powerful people in New Jersey — and arguably the single most powerful unelected person in the state." (POLITICO)
- Super PACs on both sides of the aisle are increasingly leveraging this loophole to hide their donors until after election day. "Start a new super PAC after a deadline for reporting donors and expenses, then raise and spend money before the next report is due. Timed right, a super PAC might get a month or more undercover before being required to reveal its donors. And if a super PAC launches right before the election, voters won’t know who’s funding it until after they go to the polls. The strategy — which is legal — is proving increasingly popular among Democrats and Republicans. The amount of super PAC spending during the 2016 congressional primaries in which the first donor disclosure occurred after the primary election totaled $9 million. That figure increased to $15.6 million during the 2018 congressional primaries and special elections." (POLITICO)
- DoD and other agencies avoid public reporting on classified budgets. "The Pentagon and other agencies whose programs draw from highly classified budgets may withhold certain numbers from standard-format financial statements, an accounting authority announced last week. Following months of controversy and consultation with affected parties, the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board implemented a final version of a statement released in draft this summer that disappointed critics who sought total transparency on spending for sometimes-controversial secret programs." (Government Executive)
- New GAO report finds serious cyber vulnerabilities in DoD weapons systems. "The Department of Defense is playing catch up when it comes to securing weapons systems from cyberattacks, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office. Auditors said that despite decades of warnings to DOD officials that automation and connectivity were creating new critical vulnerabilities, 'until recently, DOD did not prioritize weapons system cybersecurity' and discounted as unrealistic test results that 'routinely' identified such weaknesses." (Federal Computer Week)
- New IG report knocks U.S. Marshals Service for losing track of guns, ammunition. "No matter how hard he tries, Uncle Sam can’t stop his cops from losing track of their guns and ammunition. The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) provides the latest example of a recurring problem that has long vexed federal law enforcement. A new report by the Justice Department’s inspector general 'identified significant deficiencies related to tracking weapons, ammunition, and less lethal munitions, as well as noncompliance with ammunition policy requirements.'" (Washington Post)
- President Trump floats Mar-a-Lago as potential location for second summit with North Korean leader. "President Donald Trump said Tuesday he was pleased with ongoing discussions with North Korea, adding he would like a future summit with the country's leader Kim Jong Un at his Mar-a-Lago estate or on North Korean territory. Trump's comments come after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Kim in Pyongyang to further denuclearization efforts on the Korean Peninsula." (POLITICO)
- EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler under fire for racist Facebook "likes." "EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler has used his private social media accounts to interact with incendiary content online, including “liking” a racist image of former President Barack Obama and posts from conservative provocateurs. Wheeler’s social media activity — going back years — stands in sharp contrast to his public profile as a politically savvy, humble Washington lawyer capable of avoiding the missteps that led to the ouster of Scott Pruitt, his predecessor at the Environmental Protection Agency." (Bloomberg)
- Justice Ginsberg grants temporary stay on depositions in Census citizenship question case. "In an afternoon order, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the Justice Department's request to halt the deposition in suits related to Ross' decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census. However, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who oversees the New York-based 2nd Circuit — put a temporary hold on that deposition Tuesday evening in response to an emergency stay application submitted by Solicitor General Noel Francisco…and instructed those suing the administration over the census citizenship question to file arguments with the high court by 4 P.M. Thursday." (POLITICO)
around the world
Government of Canada Chief Information Officer Alex Benay. Via GovFresh.
- A conversation with Canada's chief information officer. "Alex Benay is the Chief Information Officer Government of Canada and an open and relentless advocate for digital government innovation. Benay is also the author of the new book, “Government Digital: The Quest to Regain Public Trust,” so we asked him to share his thoughts on the role of the CIO, Canada’s proactive move to technology modernization, and what it means for government to go digital." (GovFresh)
- Three journalists detained in Myanmar on charges of showing "disrespect" to regional government. "Myanmar police arrested three journalists from the Eleven Media Group on Wednesday on charges related to showing disrespect toward the Yangon regional government. Senior journalists Kyaw Zaw Linn, Nayee Min and Phyo Wai were detained at around 10 a.m. and sent to Insein Prison. " (Bloomberg)
- China detains former head of Interpol on bribery charges. "China has claimed Meng Hongwei, the Interpol chief who was reported missing from his home in the French city of Lyon last week, took bribes, according to AFP. In a brief statement, China’s National Supervisory Commission said Meng is 'suspected of violating the law,' but gave no further details. Beijing confirmed Sunday that Meng, who also serves as a deputy minister of public security in China, had resigned as Interpol president and was being held in China." (POLITICO)
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