In today's edition, we keep things brief with articles on OPEN Government Data Act implementation, the latest complaint around Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross' delayed divestment, and more.
- Passage of the OPEN Government Data Act is a big step, but open data progress will depend on energy from the executive branch and robust oversight… "With the passage of the OPEN Government Data Act, open data is now the default setting for federal information. While open data advocates are excited about the changes, progress still depends on the executive branch and agency heads…there have been examples where action on open data has not matched rhetoric…But now that the OPEN Government Data Act has passed, when it comes to accountability, oversight entities like the Government Accountability Office and agency inspectors general can report on agencies' progress — similar to how they've done on the DATA Act — to draw congressional attention…" (Federal Computer Week) …Meanwhile, the CIO's of the Small Business Administration and the Department of Energy stressed the importance of data governance. (FedTech)
- Watchdog report says numerous U.S. ambassadors misused their social media accounts. "A handful of U.S. ambassadors broke State Department rules by taking the art of diplomacy to their personal social media accounts, an internal watchdog found. In its guidelines, the department calls social media 'an important means' to advance U.S. foreign policy and explicitly encourages employees to use Twitter, Facebook and other platforms for their diplomatic pursuits. However, they’re required to either use official government accounts for those activities or have personal posts reviewed in advance by department officials…In reviewing the Twitter accounts of 37 U.S. ambassadors, the IG found at least 20 officials posted 'original content that related to issues that were clearly of Departmental concern.' None of those posts had been reviewed by the department, auditors said in a report published Wednesday." (NextGov)
- Some of the Congressional Democrats touting a tech driven "surveillance wall" have taken big campaign donations from the defense contractors that stand to benefit. "With funding for nine Cabinet departments set to expire on Feb. 15, which would trigger another partial government shutdown, congressional Democrats have coalesced around an alternative to President Trump’s demand for a border wall: a surveillance wall comprised of radar-equipped drones, biometric data collection technology, and algorithmic risk assessment tools…Several of the Democrats who have been touting increased border surveillance technology are top recipients of campaign donations from the defense companies that would likely receive contracts to build and maintain the systems, Sludge has found." (Sludge)
- How K Street is benefiting from the accelerating pace of Congressional investigations. "K Street professionals who specialize in helping clients deal with congressional investigations are in high demand this year as lawmakers ramp up their oversight on a number of industries and issues…For companies, a public inquiry into their practices, often with top executives hauled before Congress and cameras, is a worrying prospect. More than ever, businesses are coming to lawyers on K Street to help them handle those unique challenges." (The Hill)
- The State Department's FOIA reading room, now less user friendly. "The Department of State has inexplicably made its FOIA reading room significantly less user-friendly. The previous version allowed researchers to sort the reading room’s tens of thousands of documents by date or title, among other filters, or search through curated collections. The current iteration has no such features and the documents are now unsortable. The move is a frustrating head-scratcher from an agency that – until recently – had one of the best examples of the kind of FOIA reading room that is required by 2007 FOIA amendments." (National Security Archive)
- Watchdog files new complaint against Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for failing to divest certain stocks when he said he did. "The Commerce Department’s inspector general should investigate Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross for “apparent false statements” in connection with his personal financial holdings, a nonpartisan watchdog organization contends in a newly filed complaint. The complaint from the Campaign Legal Center is rooted in Ross’ acknowledgement, first reported in December by the Center for Public Integrity, that he repeatedly told federal ethics officials he had divested BankUnited stock — even though he had not in fact done so." (Center for Public Integrity)
- House Democrats set "months" long timeline for requesting President Trump's tax returns. "Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee said it would be months before they definitively try to obtain President Donald Trump’s tax returns, after a lengthy hearing Thursday to hear from tax and constitutional law experts…New Jersey Democrat Bill Pascrell Jr. echoed previous comments from Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal that the process would be lengthy and methodical." (Roll Call)
- Congress is asking NRA head Wayne LaPierre to hand over documents as it looks into illegal coordination between the NRA and the Trump campaign. "A joint congressional inquiry is demanding that National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre hand over internal documents showing whether the NRA made 'illegal, excessive, and unreported in-kind donations' to the campaigns of Donald Trump and several GOP Senate candidates." (The Trace)
- A Justice Department opinion on online gambling, which tracks closely with that of Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson, is facing criticism. "The Justice Department’s decision last month to release a legal opinion that could further restrict Internet gambling is drawing fire from state attorneys general and former department officials amid questions about casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s long-standing push for the move. The legal opinion, which was posted online during the partial government shutdown, reversed a 2011 Justice Department interpretation of the Wire Act that effectively gave the states a green light to authorize lotteries and other forms of online gambling." (Washington Post)
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