Today in OpenGov: On Hold


In today's edition, HHS drops "gender" from a civil rights webpage, we reflect on the direction of open cities, Democratic mega-donors wait and see on 2020, the World Bank shares a new way to discover data on development, and more. 

Today's roundup is brought to you by The XX.


A side-by-side comparison of a portion of the September 16, 2017 and May 23, 2018 versions of HHS’s “Discrimination on the Basis of Sex” page, as captured by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services dropped "gender" from civil rights pages in early 2018. "In a series of unannounced changes since spring of 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) removed language pertaining to sex discrimination protections, including mentions of 'gender,' from its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) website. Earlier this year, as detailed in the Web Integrity Project’s mini-report released today, OCR’s 'Discrimination on the Basis of Sex' page, was altered and all 10 instances of the term 'gender' were removed…These changes preceded reporting by The New York Times on October 21 that revealed that HHS has circulated a memo that aims to legally redefine gender as an immutable trait determined by one’s genitalia at birth. This definition would impact how OCR oversees Title IX’s prohibition on sex discrimination in educational programs receiving federal financial assistance." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • The Republican National Committee has spent almost $1.5 million at Trump properties this election cycle. "The Republican National Committee (RNC) has ramped up its spending at properties owned by President Donald Trump this year, shelling out more than $1.1 million through September. During the 2018 election cycle, the RNC has spent nearly $1.5 million at Trump-owned properties, including Trump’s hotels in New York and Washington, D.C. and his golf resorts in Florida. Most of the money comes from a handful of large expenditures that correspond with RNC events, the biggest being a $367,365 payment to Trump National Doral Golf Club in June — related to the RNC’s 2018 Spring Meeting at the resort." (OpenSecrets)
  • Supreme Court puts deposition of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in Census citizenship question case on hold while allowing other parts of case to proceed. "The Supreme Court stopped the deposition of one senior Trump administration official involved in the decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census in an order Monday, while allowing another to proceed. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's ordered deposition will not go ahead at this time, under the Supreme Court's unsigned order, but the deposition of the acting head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, John Gore, will take place." (BuzzFeed)
  • Our weekly roundup of Trump family conflicts includes Saudi business ties, a new FBI headquarters, Ivanka's sales figures, and more. Lynn Walsh checked in with her regular look at Trump family conflicts of interest. "This week, more pressure is put on President Donald Trump to disclose his business dealings with Saudi Arabia, Democrats allege the president intervened in the plans for building a new FBI building to protect his Washington D.C. hotel and Ivanka Trump is accused of providing false sales figures for Trump building projects." (Sunlight Foundation)

states and cities

The 2018 Open Cities Summit took place on September 24, 2018.
  • Reflecting on key themes at the Open Cities Summit. "In September 2018 the Sunlight Foundation’s Open Cities team co-hosted the Open Cities Summit, a biennial gathering of open government advocates, civil society, civil servants, and others working at the local level. The theme of this year’s Summit was, 'Open and Smart: The Evolution of Open Cities.'…While a number of spirited discussions on everything from the institutionalization of open government practices to the democratization of AI took place throughout the Summit, a few pressing themes emerged from advocates, technologists, and government officials in the room." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • The Missouri GOP accidentally sent 10,000 voters incorrect information about how to vote absentee. "The Missouri Republican Party sent mailers to 10,000 voters across the state with false information about when their absentee ballots are due, the party’s executive director acknowledged Friday. Ray Bozarth said the incorrect information was printed on postcards as the result of a miscommunication between the party and its vendor, which he declined to name. Bozarth also did not say how the miscommunication occurred." (Kansas City Star)
  • This private prison company has donated heavily to Florida political candidates, including GOP Gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis. "Since the 2016 General Election, Florida-based for-profit prison operator GEO Group has donated over a million dollars to Political Action Committees and political candidates throughout the State of Florida, supporting Republican PACs and gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, as well as a number of elections for representation in both houses of the Florida Congress. In addition to the explicit company support, executives for prison-related industries have leaned heavily toward DeSantis as their pick for the Chief Executive of the Sunshine State." (MuckRock)
  • Buffalo, NY is offering residents free open data training. "Residents of Buffalo, N.Y., will have an opportunity to learn about the city’s open data portal and how to use it starting this November. Buffalo is offering a free four-week course called Data 101, during which participants learn what open data is, the history of the open data movement, how Buffalo fits into this trend, the functionalities of its open data portal, and how they can interact with the data in a way that gives them new insights into their community. The course is currently accepting applications, and its set to begin on Tuesday, Nov. 27, continuing each Tuesday for four weeks after that." (Government Technology)

washington watch

Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) unveil legislation to permanently ban earmarks earlier this year. Image credit: Claire McCaskill's Flickr.
  • Bipartisan group of Senators pushes back against rumors that earmarks might return. "A bipartisan group of senators critical of pork-barrel spending is again warning about the possible return of congressional earmarks. The contingent of persistent critics of the earmarking process warned about talk of the return of the practice in a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, Appropriations Chairman Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and Vice Chairman Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont…McCaskill was the only member of the Democratic caucus to sign on to the letter. Flake and McCaskill led the unveiling of legislation in January designed to outlaw earmarking, which is currently not used during the appropriations process due to House and Senate moratoriums." (Roll Call)
  • Big Democratic donors are keeping their presidential powder dry as potential candidates jockey for 2020 position. "Major Democratic donors are not committing to prospective 2020 candidates, a break from past presidential cycles when fundraisers lined up behind candidates even before their races officially began. The Democratic primary is expected to kick into a higher gear after November’s midterm elections, and there is already plenty of activity…Yet many donors, for now, say they’re in no rush to commit to candidates, even as they say they are fielding calls asking for support." (The Hill)
  • Intelligence agencies express concern over ongoing foreign efforts to influence midterm elections… "The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Department of Justice, FBI and Department of Homeland Security recently issued a joint statement expressing concern over the threat posed by foreign actors attempting to influence U.S. elections. In a press release dated Oct. 19, the four intelligence community members specifically identified China, Iran and Russia as being involved in campaigns that seek 'to undermine confidence in democratic institutions and influence public sentiment and government policies' as well as 'influence voter perceptions and decision making in the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections.'" (Executive Gov) …Meanwhile, Philip Ewing has a look at Russia's 2018 disinformation efforts. (NPR)

around the world

A mapping tool on the World Bank's new World Development Indicators website.
  • Looking to explore global development data? There's a new website for that. "The World Development Indicators (WDI) is the World Bank’s premier compilation of international statistics on global development. Drawing from officially recognized sources and including national, regional, and global estimates, the WDI provides access to almost 1,600 indicators for 217 economies, with some time series extending back more than 50 years. The database helps users—analysts, policymakers, academics, and all those curious about the state of the world—to find information related to all aspects of development, both current and historical…This year, we introduce the World Development Indicators website: a new discovery tool and storytelling platform for our data which takes users behind the scenes with information about data coverage, curation, and methodologies." (World Bank Data Blog)
  • A new party will take power following peaceful elections in Bhutan. "A new, centre-left party in Bhutan has won 30 out of 47 seats of its National Assembly in elections held on October 18th. The Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (abbreviated DNT), which means ‘Bhutan United Party’ in Bhutanese, ran on a platform of tackling rural poverty and youth employment. Bhutan's new prime minister will be Lotay Tshering, a 50-year-old urology surgeon trained in Bangladesh and Australia. He helped found the party in 2013 and became its leader in May 2018. This is only the third democratic elections to take place in the tiny, landlocked South Asian country since it transitioned from an absolutist to a constitutional monarchy in 2008." (Global Voices)
  • Facebook looks to the UK for its new global public policy leader. "Europe hopes Nick Clegg can be the man to bridge the gap with Silicon Valley. The surprise news that the former U.K. deputy prime minister, who also has plenty of Brussels experience on his CV, starts at Facebook on Monday was welcomed in both Westminster and the tech sector…Clegg joins the social media platform as head of its global affairs and communications team in the aftermath of a raft of scandals that have rocked the tech giant, and dented trust in the Facebook brand." (POLITICO)


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