Today in OpenGov: But Her Emails


In today's edition, Ivanka Trump used her personal email for public business, one former lobbyist has a novel way to keep track of his potential conflicts of interest, open data reorganization in Philadelphia, and more. 


President Trump and Ivanka Trump.
  • Ivanka Trump regularly used her personal email account for public business in 2017 according to document review. "Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules, according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence. White House ethics officials learned of Trump’s repeated use of personal email when reviewing emails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit. That review revealed that throughout much of 2017, she often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private email account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner." (Washington Post) Our take? Public officials – whether a senior advisor to the President, the Secretary of State, or the mayor of a small town – should keep public business to their public accounts. 
  • CNN drops court fight after White House restores Jim Acosta's press pass, announces new rules for press conferences. "The Trump administration is fully restoring CNN chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta’s credentials, dropping an earlier threat to take them away again once a judge’s order expired…White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement confirming that Acosta’s hard pass had been reinstated. She also announced a set of new rules for future press conferences, including that journalists can only ask one question and then must yield the floor unless the president or other official taking questions allows a follow-up question." (BuzzFeed)
  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry's PAC has been paying for his wife to travel around the world with him. "Energy Secretary Rick Perry has used tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash left over from his days as Texas governor to pay for his wife, Anita, to accompany him on his official travels around the world. Perry’s political action committee has paid for Anita Perry’s trips to Paris, Vienna, Rome, and Cape Town, according to financial disclosure forms posted online by the Texas Ethics Commission…While using campaign funds to pay for the trips is legal under Texas law, one advocate called the practice unethical." (Bloomberg)
  • Trump administration officials discussed sharing private Census information with law enforcement. "Trump administration officials have privately discussed the possibility that in the future census information could be shared with law enforcement, according to documents filed in a legal challenge over plans for a new citizenship question on the 2020 survey. The subject came up after a Democratic lawmaker asked whether responses to the survey could ever be shared with law enforcement agencies, something that has been strictly illegal according to federal law governing the census." (Washington Post)

washington watch

The Department of the Interior headquarters building in Washington, DC. Image credit: NCinDC.
  • This former lobbyist and current top administration official has a novel approach to avoiding conflicts of interest. "…behind the scene at Interior, which manages one-fifth of the America's landmass, Zinke's No. 2 is quietly making his mark.  On Monday, my colleague Juliet Eilperin published an in-depth profile of the deputy secretary at the department, David Bernhardt…Between his stints in the Bush and Trump administrations, however, Bernhardt worked for so many clients as a lobbyist that he now carries around a small card listing all his potential conflicts of interests…" (Washington Post)
  • Newly empowered House Democrats are eyeing FEC oversight. "For most of this decade, Congress has all but ignored the perpetually gridlocked Federal Election Commission, which exists to enforce and regulate the nation’s campaign finance laws. No longer, two Democratic congressional representatives tell the Center for Public Integrity. The bipartisan FEC is broken and needs fixing, they argue." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Waiting for a FOIA response from an intelligence agency? A new report points to a lack of adequate technology. "If the intelligence community wants to lessen its information request backlog and avoid lawsuits, the agencies need to make better use of technology and stop applying an 'industrial age process … to a digital age challenge.' A Sept. 28 report from the intelligence community inspector general released publicly last week found the agencies’ processes for responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, is inefficient and will continue to lead to growing backlogs and litigation if not improved. Among the issues is a lack of 'adequate technology' to support processing FOIA requests." (NextGov)

states and cities

Image via Pixabay.
  • Kentucky's open records act lets agencies refuse requests sent via email, so get your stamps out to ensure a response. "In today’s digital era, streamlining public records request should be a breeze. Yet, states like Kentucky are still imposing laws that favor requesters who send in their request the old-fashioned way. With a three-day response time, a streamlined appeals process through the Attorney General’s office, and only 13 exemptions in the law, requesters in Kentucky should have an easy time getting records. But if you take a closer look at the Kentucky Open Records Act, you’ll find KRS 61.872(2), which gives agencies the discretion to refuse KORA requests sent via email." (MuckRock)
  • Philadelphia's chief data officer is stepping, sparking a restructuring of the city's open data office. "The City of Philadelphia is today announcing plans to restructure its Office of Open Data and Digital Transformation (ODDT). As part of the shuffling, the City’s open data team will once again come under the fold of the Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT). Since 2016, it reported to the office of the Chief Administrative Officer. In the same announcement, it was revealed that, Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski — who took on the role in 2016 and led the team to release more than 200 open data sets — will be stepping down on Jan. 1." ( Philly)
  • In Washington, DC next week? Join the D.C. Open Government Coalition for an open government happy hour. "You are invited to the upcoming D.C. Open Government Coalition happy hour. We’re excited to bring together transparency advocates to discuss strategies for increasing attention to open government in the District of Columbia! Join us November 28th for food, drinks, and discussion about where we’ve been in 2018 — fighting for access to police body cam videos, supporting independence for the Office of Open Government, and advocating for public access to archival materials." Learn more about the event and register to attend here.


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