Today in OpenGov: Spooky Scary


In today's edition, Twitter's midterm highlight page is already surfacing fake news, cities address data sharing hurdles, a probe into Ryan Zinke's questionable ethics takes a step forward, and more. 

Today's roundup is brought to you by Tracy Morgan, Donald Glover, and Jeff Richmond. Happy Halloween!

Midterm madness

Twitter's midterm tab is surfacing hyperpartisan content from accounts that appear to be bots. Via BuzzFeed.
  • Twitter launched a new page highlighting midterm content, it immediately started surfacing questionable content. "Twitter launched an events page for the upcoming US midterm elections on Tuesday. And already it is surfacing tweets from popular online figures who have promoted conspiracy theories and disinformation campaigns in the past…while many tweets featured on Twitter’s new midterms page come from the verified accounts of political candidates and journalists, there are also quite a few from known conspiracy theorists; users promoting disinformation about candidates; and accounts with few followers, no profile photos, and low tweet counts — all signs of bot or spam accounts." (BuzzFeed)
  • Rep. Steve King (R-IA) is losing financial support over his ties to white nationalism, racist candidates… "Dairy giant Land O’Lakes announced on Tuesday that it will no longer make financial contributions to Representative Steve King of Iowa after a gun-fueled massacre at a Pittsburgh synagogue brought new attention to the Republican’s incendiary comments about race and association with white nationalism. Purina PetCare made a similar announcement Tuesday afternoon." (Bloomberg)…he was also condemned by the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "Stivers, who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee, had been briefed on racially charged comments made recently by Iowa Republican Steve King, an immigration hard-liner with a history of controversial and insensitive remarks. And so with not even a heads-up to GOP leaders, Stivers went on Twitter and blasted his colleague." (POLITICO)
  • Voters will have the option to push ethics, campaign finance reform via state ballot initiatives next week. "Voters in more than a dozen states will vote on ballot questions next Tuesday to enact stringent laws on campaign finance and other government ethics issues affecting state and local lawmakers. The surge in ballot questions comes as national Democrats are embracing ethics reform issues." (NPR)
  • VICE News was able to secure approval for Facebook ads while posing as all 100 U.S. Senators. "One of Facebook’s major efforts to add transparency to political advertisements is a required 'Paid for by' disclosure at the top of each ad supposedly telling users who is paying for political ads that show up in their news feeds. But on the eve of the 2018 midterm elections, a VICE News investigation found the 'Paid for by' feature is easily manipulated and appears to allow anyone to lie about who is paying for a political ad, or to pose as someone paying for the ad. To test it, VICE News applied to buy fake ads on behalf of all 100 sitting U.S. senators, including ads 'Paid for by' by Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. Facebook’s approvals were bipartisan: All 100 sailed through the system…" (VICE News)

states and cities

Screenshot via
  • New project makes it easier to access and understand salary information for Illinois public servants. "I’ve been working on this for a really long time. Today, I’m ready to announce my latest endeavor: the Illinois Public Salaries Database. I’m excited about it, and I hope you check it out." (Jared Rutecki) You can dig into the database at
  • State of State Public Records Laws Project aims to shed light on all 50 state FOI laws. "In a goal to arm requesters with knowledge, we’re launching a new project page hosting state-by-state public record law stories and key players fighting for transparency in those states. Do you want to know what Tennessee lawmakers have to say about their 500+ state exemptions? Are you looking for your state’s costliest public records request? Or maybe you just want to know which legislatures are exempt from public records laws. Whatever your public record inquiries are, our new State of the State Public Records Laws Project will give you a more comprehensive look at public records law in action." (MuckRock)
  • Cities look to increase data sharing, but have some problems to tackle on the way. "Day one of the CoLab revolved around cities’ representatives exploring how their departments shared data and how differing priorities affected dataset availability. On subsequent days, participants discussed possible solutions and the increasing number of operating systems coming to market to meet their needs…In New York City’s case, DoITT officials recognized that as a service agency responding to the challenges of other agencies, they need to engage those stakeholders more frequently." (Route Fifty)
  • Pennsylvania paper awarded $120,000 in legal fees in open records case with state Department of Corrections. "In a 'first-of-its kind' enforcement proceeding, the Herald-Standard was awarded nearly $120,000 in legal fees stemming from an open records fight with the state Department of Corrections…In March, [Commonwealth Court Judge Robert] Simpson found that the DOC acted in bad faith when officials repeatedly failed to turn over information about inmate illness at the State Correctional Institution at Fayette and other state prisons, despite being ordered to so. He fined the agency $1,500. The bad faith finding and fine were both firsts, as was Simpson’s decision to award the paper $118,458.37, a portion of the fees it took to fight the three-year legal battle. (via NFOIC)


President Trump.
  • With midterms looming, President Trump is mobilizing the federal government as he looks to dominate the narrative. "President Trump is mobilizing the vast powers of the military and other parts of the federal government to help bolster Republican election efforts, using the office of the presidency in an attempt to dictate the campaigns’ closing themes and stoke the fears and anxieties of his supporters ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections." (Washington Post
  • Is this Saudi lobbyist and Trump appointee reconsidering his allegiances or just planning his retirement? "One of President Donald Trump’s administration appointees — who simultaneously represents Saudi Arabia’s government as a registered foreign agent — is reevaluating his various roles. Richard F. Hohlt, a longtime lobbyist who has served on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships since Trump appointed him to the post in June 2017, said in emails with the Center for Public Integrity that his upcoming 71st birthday has caused him to reconsider who he represents." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • The Interior Department inspector general has referred at least one of the 18 probes into Ryan Zinke to the Justice Department. "The Interior Department’s top watchdog has referred an investigation into a possible conflict of interest by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to the Justice Department, according to a person familiar with the matter, a sign that the federal government is considering a criminal investigation of Mr. Zinke’s actions. It is not known which investigation was referred to the Justice Department. Mr. Zinke is the subject of at least 18 known federal investigations into allegations of ethical misconduct or other policy violations." (New York Times)


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