Today in OpenGov: Twitter Transitions


In today's edition, newly elected members of Congress have new social media rules to get used to, the Open Government Partnership places U.S. participation under review, we share some tips for creating open data user personas, an Azerbaijani blogger's hunger strike, and more. 

Washington watch

  • Freshly elected members of Congress learn the limitations of their official Twitter accounts… "As new House members say hello to their new life on Capitol Hill, they’re also saying goodbye (for now) to their campaign social media accounts and the hordes of followers they’ve amassed. Newly elected members have been sharing their experiences on social media, giving their followers a look at what it’s like to transition into Congress. But some of their social media fluency will be reined in to conform with strict guidelines on how officials can use their platforms. Most freshman lawmakers have already launched their fresh accounts. They and their staffs are starting from scratch to build a following on newly minted accounts that clearly identify their position in Congress and with posts that are governed official rules." (Roll Call)
  • …Meanwhile, as House leadership changes parties Committees face Twitter transition conundrums. "The various committees of the House of Representatives are strange, human institutions. They are staffed by whoever holds the majority, which, since January of 2011, had been the Republicans, but is now the Democrats. And with that change, the committees must deal with important business, such as establishing new chairpeople, deciding on organizing principles, and … handling the committee Twitter account." (The Atlantic)
  • Watchdog group argues that former Senator Joe Lieberman should register as a foreign agent over his work for Chinese telecom firm ZTE. "Former Senator Joe Lieberman should register as a foreign agent for his work on behalf of embattled Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp., according to a complaint filed with the Justice Department today by the Campaign Legal Center. Lieberman filed as a lobbyist last month for the company, which is facing scrutiny over alleged national security threats its products pose to the U.S. Under federal law, lobbyists for foreign commercial clients are exempted from the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA." (Bloomberg)
  • What will 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls do when corporate cash comes calling? "Potential Democratic contenders in the 2020 presidential election face a tough decision on whether to accept the flood of money from special interests, corporations and lobbyists…Many back overturning the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited spending by outside campaigns. There is also pressure from progressives to reject corporate money, a litmus test for many on the left. The contentious debate over fundraising in the party was further highlighted this year when the DNC reversed a ban on money from fossil fuel companies." (The Hill)


Screenshot via E Pluribus Unum
  • Following multiple missed deadlines, the Open Government Partnership has placed the United States' participation under review. "When the Trump administration committed to participating in the Open Government Partnership in September 2017, it surprised watchdogs and transparency advocates. When it delayed releasing a new plan one month later, it came as no surprise, given the administration’s clouded record in its first year and regression on anti-corruption programs, reforms, and policies. The White House Office of Management and Budget has been silent for fourth months after it missed a second, key deadline for submitting new United States National Action Plan for Open Government for the Open Government Partnership after it convened workshops and an online forum in 2017 and 2018. The leadership of the Open Government Partnership has now confirmed that the United States is under review after it has failed to deliver commitments in good faith for two years." (E Pluribus Unum)
  • Court ruling clears path for release of 20,000 new emails between energy industry and Trump administration officials. "In a Dec. 26 ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the release of about 20,000 emails exchanged between industry groups and 25 Trump officials —  including acting chief Andrew Wheeler — within the next 10 months, along with calendars and other documents. With that 10-month timeline starting as soon as the federal government fully reopens, the decision means the Sierra Club and other environmental activists expect to learn a lot more about Wheeler's past work and that of other Trump EPA appointees over the coming year." (Washington Post)
  • President Trump leveraged his prime time address on the border "crisis" to raise money for his re-election campaign. "President Trump is fundraising off his national prime-time address Tuesday focused on the border amid the ongoing partial government shutdown. Trump in an email Tuesday afternoon asked supporters to donate to his "Official Secure the Border Fund" through the Trump Make America Great Again Committee, a joint fundraising committee for the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee." (The Hill)
  • President Trump's acting Secretary of Defense worked at Boeing for 31 years. Did he take his corporate allegiances to the Pentagon? "Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan’s private remarks during his 18 months at the Pentagon have spurred accusations that he is boosting his former employer Boeing, people who have witnessed the exchanges told POLITICO — fueling questions about whether he harbors an unfair bias against other big military contractors. Shanahan, who spent 31 years at Boeing before joining the Pentagon in mid-2017, has signed an ethics agreement recusing him from weighing in on matters involving the mammoth defense contractor. But that hasn’t stopped him from praising Boeing and trashing competitors such as Lockheed Martin during internal meetings, two former government officials who have heard him make the accusations told POLITICO." (POLITICO)

states and cities

  • Looking to create user personas? Check out these tips we gleaned from our open data user persona process. "In order for open data to be integrated within a culture of civic engagement, open data programs need to meet residents where they are. This can be achieved by using human-centered design techniques like developing user personas. In addition to collecting all the user personas we could find in use in the public sector, we came up with some useful tips for those looking to create user personas." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • A large number of digital public records from the past two administrations in Maine are likely lost for good. "A huge number of emails and public documents from the administrations of Govs. Angus King and John Baldacci have likely been deleted from state government servers – some lost forever, others in storage on difficult-to-access backup tapes. The loss hampers the ability of citizens, historians, journalists and lawyers to learn how policies were developed and implemented. State officials transferred emails and documents to backup devices as part of routine purges to free up server storage, not realizing many of them should have been retained in accessible forms and eventually transferred to the state archives, Maine State Archivist David Cheever said." (Press Herald h/t to Nick Kaufmann)
  • The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is out with updated state open records guides. "The new year is looking a lot brighter for public records requesters in search of legal help. Last week, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press announced their new and improved state open records guides, which give an easy-to-read overview of state public records law." (h/t to MuckRock)

around the world

  • Azerbaijanis call for the release of an imprisoned blogger as his hunger strike nears its third week. "On December 26, imprisoned blogger Mehman Huseynov began a hunger strike in protest of what he says is the latest in a series of bogus charges levied against him by authorities in Azerbaijan. After 12 days without food or water, Huseynov is now facing severe stomach pain and other health complications. His lawyer, Shahla Humbatova, visited him in prison on January 7 and reported that his physical condition had deteriorated rapidly…Young, popular and politicized, Huseynov is precisely the type of figure Azerbaijan's government has targeted repeatedly in its multi-year crackdown on civil society, media and political opposition. The response among local activists to the charges against him has been overwhelming." (Global Voices)
  • French authorities consider tightening laws on violent protesters as "Yellow Jacket" demonstrations continue. "The French government is considering tougher measures against violent rioters who hijack legitimate protests, possibly mirroring existing laws that identify and ban known football hooligans. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, speaking late Monday on TF1, favors cracking down on unsanctioned protests that threaten the freedom to demonstrate, saying a change in police tactics is needed to tackle the changing nature of public demonstrations." (POLITICO)
  • Suspects admits to hack that exposed private information of hundreds of German public officials. "A 20-year-old German man from the state of Hesse has confessed to publishing a huge trove of private data linked to Chancellor Angela Merkel and hundreds of other public figures. The man, who police did not identify by name, was arrested after his home was raided on Sunday and released the following day after admitting to publishing the data via Twitter, the BKA Federal Criminal Police Office said in a statement. The suspect, who said he acted on his own, is a student who lives with his parents and has no previous convictions." (Bloomberg)


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