In today's edition, we look at how one city's open data policy has evolved, President Trump's praise for body slamming a journalist, 10 charts that explain declining Congressional expertise, and more.
states and cities
- Looking at how Greensboro, North Carolina's approach to open data has evolved. "The City of Greensboro, North Carolina used public requests for information to help build an open data portal that was responding directly to residents’ needs. The City took a resident-informed approach to open data, and as a result, has seen public records requests drop off in comparison to national trends…In 2017, Sunlight Foundation’s Open Cities team worked directly with the City of Greensboro to write an open data policy and launch a data portal called “Open Gate City,” providing data to facilitate transparency, promote community engagement, and stimulate innovation." (Sunlight Foundation)
- These Secretaries of State are overseeing elections that they are also running in. "In three states, the referee for the midterm elections is also on the field as a player. Elected secretaries of state in Georgia and Kansas — who in their official capacities oversee the elections in their states — are running for governor. Ohio’s secretary of state is running for lieutenant governor. All are Republicans. They have faced scattered calls to resign but have refused to do so. Election reformers say the situation underscores the conflict of interest when an official has responsibilities for an election while also running as a candidate." (McClatchy DC)
- Massachusetts' public records law ranks among the most restrictive in the United States. "Most requesters that file in Massachusetts have noted difficulty in obtaining records from the state. The Bay State has often been ranked as one of the worst in terms public access to information, and that’s in no small part owing to the fact that three branches of government – the judiciary, the legislature, and the office of the governor – are exempt from the public records law." (MuckRock)
- Vermont sued by industry groups over statewide net neutrality rules. "Internet, cable and wireless providers are suing Vermont because of the state’s efforts to impose net neutrality rules following the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of its popular national open internet regulations. The coalition accused the state’s lawmakers of defying federal rules and arguing that their industries can’t navigate competing state laws governing internet access." (The Hill)
- President Trump, campaigning in Montana, praises Congressman who "body-slammed a reporter." "President Trump praised a Republican candidate’s assault last year on a reporter and fumed over his Democratic opponents here on Thursday night in a freewheeling rally meant to mobilize his base’s support in the coming midterm elections. In urging the crowd to vote for Representative Greg Gianforte, who is running for re-election and who was sentenced to anger management classes and community service for assaulting a reporter last spring, Mr. Trump jokingly warned the crowd to 'never wrestle him.'" (New York Times)
- With latest leaker arrest, Trump administration on pace to shatter previous record number of leakers and Whistleblower prosecuted by Obama administration. "The Trump administration has now indicted at least five journalists’ sources in less than two years’ time—a pace that, if maintained through the end of Trump’s term, would obliterate the already-record number of leakers and whistleblowers prosecuted under eight years of the Obama administration." (Columbia Journalism Review)
- Interior Department speaks out, says it never planed to hire a political appointee as its acting inspector general… "The Interior Department on Thursday disavowed any attempt to name a political appointee to head the office investigating Secretary Ryan Zinke, despite a claim by Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson that the move was underway. The Interior statement disputes an email Friday in which Carson had said Suzanne Tufts, a HUD official and Republican operative with no ethics review experience on her resume, was heading to Interior to become its acting inspector general. That would have placed her in charge of several investigations into Zinke's travels, political activities and relations with industry groups." (POLITICO)
- …Meanwhile, a new IG report finds that Ryan Zinke and his wife violated agency travel policy. "Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke violated his agency’s travel policy by having his wife travel with him in government vehicles, a new report by the Interior Department’s inspector general found. The report, which has not yet been made public but was posted online Thursday by The Washington Post, also found that Mr. Zinke considered requesting that his wife, Lolita, become an Interior Department volunteer in order to legitimize her travel. Mr. Zinke also had an agency security detail travel with him and his family during a vacation, at a cost to taxpayers of more than $25,000." (New York Times)
- 10 charts that explain Congress' declining technical expertise. Our friends Daniel Schuman and Zach Graves explain, "just this year, we’ve seen Congress struggle with technology issues such as quantum computing, cryptocurrencies, and the governance of online platforms. Indeed, it seems effectively incapable of tackling major technology policy issues such as the debate over online privacy, election cybersecurity, or artificial intelligence. This state of affairs is the product of decades of institutional deterioration, sometimes referred to as the “big lobotomy.” While scholars of American government may offer various books or white papers chronicling this decline, the pattern is evident from a few trends that this post will highlight." (Tech Dirt)
- Former FBI agent sentenced to 4 years in leaks case. "By the time Terry J. Albury arrived in Minneapolis in 2012, about 11 years after he went to work for the F.B.I., he had grown increasingly convinced that agents were abusing their powers and discriminating against racial and religious minorities as they hunted for potential terrorists…In 2016, Mr. Albury began photographing secret documents that described F.B.I. powers to recruit potential informants and identify potential extremists. On Thursday, he was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty last year to unauthorized disclosures of national security secrets for sending several of the documents to The Intercept, which published the files with a series titled 'The F.B.I.’s Secret Rules.'" (New York Times)
- The Heritage Foundation's secretive efforts to train conservative judicial clerks raise ethics questions. "The closed-door 'training academy' was aimed at a select group: recent law school graduates who had secured prestigious clerkships with federal judges. It was organized by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative group that has played a leading role in moving the courts to the right, and it had some unusual requirements…the future law clerks would be required to promise to keep the program’s teaching materials secret and pledge not to use what they learned 'for any purpose contrary to the mission or interest of the Heritage Foundation.'…legal experts said the effort by Heritage to train and influence law clerks raised serious ethical questions and could undermine the duties the clerks have to the justice system and to the judges they will serve." (New York Times)
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