Today in OpenGov: Open With an Asterisk


In today's edition, President Trump's attorney general nominee promises special counsel transparency with a pretty big caveat, following the money out of losing Congressional campaigns, France tries to deal with its yellow jacket problem through debate, and more. 


The U.S. Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, DC. 
  • William Barr, President Trump's nominee for attorney general, pledges protection for special counsel, but reserves the right to write its public report himself. "William Barr vowed to protect Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation from political interference but said he — not Mueller — may ultimately write the public version of the special counsel’s findings if he’s confirmed as attorney general…The Justice Department’s regulations on special counsels dictate that Mueller can give his report only to the attorney general, who decides what will become public. Barr said he interprets that as giving him the power to write his own version for public consumption." (Bloomberg)
  • Federal judge blocks Census citizenship question, citing "a multitude of independent reasons." "A federal judge in Manhattan on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration from asking people whether they are a citizen in the 2020 census, ruling that an effort to include the question 'was unlawful for a multitude of independent reasons and must be set aside.' State and local governments, along with a raft of advocacy groups, sued over the question, alleging it would deter participation in the once-a-decade survey, thereby undermining the census’s purpose." (BuzzFeed) Rick Hasen has already read the 277 page opinion and has some some cogent analysis up at Election Law Blog.
  • President Trump has had five face-to-face meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin since taking office. Almost no-one knows what they talked about. "The first time they met was in Germany. President Trump took his interpreter’s notes afterward and ordered him not to disclose what he heard to anyone. Later that night, at a dinner, Mr. Trump pulled up a seat next to President Vladimir V. Putin to talk without any American witnesses at all. Their third encounter was in Vietnam when Mr. Trump seemed to take Mr. Putin’s word that he had not interfered in American elections. A formal summit meeting followed in Helsinki, Finland, where the two leaders kicked out everyone but the interpreters. Most recently, they chatted in Buenos Aires after Mr. Trump said they would not meet because of Russian aggression…each of the five times he has met with Mr. Putin since taking office, he has fueled suspicions about their relationship. The unusually secretive way he has handled these meetings has left many in his own administration guessing what happened and piqued the interest of investigators." (New York Times)

washington watch

Image via Pixabay.
  • These candidates raised millions for Congressional bids that ended in failure. What's next for that money? "Democrats who ran for the House in 2018 shattered fundraising records, some even surpassing Senate candidates. But not all of the cycle’s top fundraisers ended up winning their races.  That’s left a number of candidates — with high profiles and massive donor lists — pondering their next moves. And some are still eyeing careers in politics." (Roll Call)
  • Two more departing members of Congress are set to make soft landings on K Street. "Former Republican Reps. Kevin Yoder (Kan.) and Luke Messer (Ind.) are the next on the growing list of lawmakers who are headed to K Street firms after Congress. Yoder, who lost his reelection to Democrat Sharice Davids, will be a partner at HHQ Ventures. Messer, who left the House to unsuccessfully run for the Senate, will be a principal at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting." (The Hill)
  • This DEA agent was once dubbed a "superstar," now he's facing accusations of running a $7 million money laundering scheme. "A U.S. federal narcotics agent known for his expensive tastes and high-profile drug seizures has been implicated in a multimillion-dollar money-laundering conspiracy that involved the very cartel criminals he was charged with fighting in Colombia. A once standout Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Jose Irizarry is accused of conspiring with a longtime DEA informant to launder more than $7 million in illicit drug proceeds, sometimes using an underground network known as the black-market peso exchange, according to five current and former law enforcement officials." (Associated Press)
  • The FCC won't talk to Congress about an evolving privacy scandal centered around cell phone location data, citing the government shutdown. "Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai refused a Democratic lawmaker's request to immediately address a privacy scandal involving wireless carriers, saying that it can wait until after the government shutdown is over. A Motherboard investigation published last week found that T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are still selling their mobile customers' real-time location information to third-party data brokers, despite promises in June 2018 to stop the controversial practice." (Ars Technica)

around the world

Paweł Adamowicz at Personal Democracy Forum CEE2018/ FUTURE FOR ALL. April 26, 2018, Gdańsk, Poland, ©Dawid Linkowski via Civic Hall.
  • Remembering Pawel Adamowicz, the Mayor of Gdansk, Poland who was murdered two days ago. Andrew Rasiej writes, "Some of you may have heard that Pawel Adamowicz, the Mayor of Gdansk, Poland, was brutally stabbed to death two days ago while on stage during a popular charity fundraising event…What you may not know is that Adamowicz was Personal Democracy Forum’s sponsor for the last 5 years for its annual conference in Poland. Adamowicz, beloved by his constituents, was a political target of the ruling Law and Justice party, and overwhelmingly won re-election last year. As a young man, Adamowicz was one of the organizers of the 1988 nationwide strikes that forced the Polish government to recognize the Solidarity movement and began the transition to democracy…He was not only a champion for open government, civic engagement, but publicly defended immigrants, the gay community, and Jews at a time when Poland is struggling with rising populism and racism. Adamowicz recognized the Personal Democracy Forum community as his “tribe” and embraced us fully by offering us the use of the world famous Solidarity Museum and conference center for our annual event." (Civic Hall)
  • France's Yellow Vest protesters keep assaulting journalists. "In late November, as the Gilets Jaunes—or Yellow Vests—protest movement took hold in France, Martin Goillandeau and Makana Eyre wrote for CJR that participants were harassing, and even assaulting, journalists. Since then, the protests have become a weekly occurrence. So, too, have threats against reporters." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • French President Emmanuel Macron launches a 3 month "national debate" to address Yellow Vest concerns. "French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday launched a national debate to address mounting discontent with his government…French citizens will be able to reply to the consultation online and in French municipalities until March 15. All contributions will be published and sent to the government. Macron said he would act upon the results of the consultation by the end of April, reported French daily Le Figaro." (POLITICO)
  • Nigeria's government may be moving to gag the judiciary ahead of elections next month. "The Nigerian government is pursuing criminal charges of financial negligence and fraudulence against Walter Onnoghen, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN)…The charges against the CJN are based on a petition sponsored by the Anti-corruption and Research-based Data Initiative.  According to Signal media, the group has links with current President Muhammadu Buhari. The petition's author, Dennis Aghanya, was the president's former media aide between 2009-2011 and currently serves as executive secretary of the research and data group that initiated the petition." (Global Voices)
  • Europe is set to define "high value data" without adequate public input. "January 22 will mark a crucial moment for the future of open data in Europe. That day, the final trilogue between European Commission, Parliament, and Council is planned to decide over the ratification of the updated PSI Directive. Among others, the European institutions will decide over what counts as ‘high value’ data. What essential information should be made available to the public and how those data infrastructures should be funded and managed are critical questions for the future of the EU. As we will discuss below, there are many ways one might envision the collective ‘value’ of those data. This is a democratic question and we should not be satisfied by an ill and broadly defined proposal. We therefore propose to organise a public debate to collectively define what counts as high value data in Europe." (Open Knowledge)


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