Today in OpenGov: Discouraging news.


In today's edition, more sunshine for federal watchdogs, challenges for student journalists, the latest conflicts in Trumpland, and more. 

washington watch

A magnifying glass over a stack of files. Illustration credit: Project on Government Oversight.
  • Agency inspectors general make vital recommendations, but their work often languishes without sunshine. "In 2018, the 73 federal agency inspectors general made more than 7,000 recommendations to eliminate billions of dollars in potential waste and fraud, address possible missteps and wrongdoing by government officials, and mitigate risks to the health, safety, and rights of the public…While inspectors general are required to post reports with their recommendations on public websites, these really only capture the situation at the time of the report’s writing. Updates on implementation are often hard to find, and are usually only reported months after an agency takes action—if it ever does…The coming months and years will likely bring more turmoil and political controversy. The inspectors general provide vital perspectives on both broad challenges and specific problems agencies face. It’s time to shine a brighter light on their work." (Government Executive)
  • Representative goes to unusual lengths highlighting ICE's lack of response to his FOIA request. "Wisconsin Rep. Mark Pocan says the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has been unresponsive to his inquiries about raids conducted in his home state. So the Democratic lawmaker was forced to resort to somewhat desperate measures. Pocan stood outside ICE headquarters Wednesday morning in Washington, passing out fliers to employees as they headed into work that read in bold red type: “MISSING: HAVE YOU SEEN THIS FOIA REQUEST?” Pocan had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request on Oct.12 to request records related to ICE arrests of 83 individuals in Wisconsin last September. Four months later, ICE still has not complied with the request, he said." (Roll Call)
  • Lawmakers plan to introduce bipartisan legislation to make court records free to the public. "House lawmakers are planning to introduce a bipartisan bill Wednesday that would make court records free to the public. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) have teamed up to reintroduce the bill, dubbed the Electronic Court Records Reform Act. The bill makes federal court records – now 10 cents per page – free of charge online via the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system, known as PACER." (The Hill) PACER fees are also the subject of a lawsuit currently being considered by a federal appeals court. (New York Times)
  • The Office of Management and Budget wants agencies to comply with the law, make progress on syncing their FOIA processes with "The White House Office of Management and Budget is asking agencies to get their National FOIA Portal interoperability plans in order. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 required that OMB and the Department of Justice simplify the Freedom of Information Act landscape by creating a central portal that anyone can visit to submit a request to any agency. Today, that portal lives at But not all agencies have established interoperability between and the agency’s existing FOIA platform. Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert sent a memo Tuesday setting a deadline of May 10, 2019, for agencies to submit a full strategy for how their in-house platform, which can range from a simple spreadsheet to an automated case management system depending on agency need and resources, will play nice with" (FedScoop)
  • Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's top lawyer used to be a lobbyist. Why didn't he disclose most of his former clients? "A former Goldman Sachs lobbyist who now works as the top lawyer for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., declined to name 19 of his 20 former clients in his financial disclosure last year. Mark Patterson, who also served as former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s chief of staff during the Obama administration, joined Schumer’s office last year. He had been a co-chair of the Perkins Coie law firm’s public and strategic affairs practice since 2014…He gave few specifics in his 2018 financial disclosure, asserting that he had to withhold the identities of nearly all of his clients based on rules of professional conduct for lawyers." (The Intercept)

states and cities

Teachers in Denver, Colorado strike. Image credit: Hyoung Chang, the Denver Post.
  • Students are being discouraged from sharing information on the Denver teacher strike with the media by school administrators. "Students who have been sharing photos, video and other information with local media in an effort to help document conditions inside their schools during Denver’s first teachers strike in 25 years say they’re receiving pushback from school administrators." (The Denver Post)
  • Student Journalists don't have the same level of protection as professionals. "The pressures student journalists face aren’t new or uncommon; they’re not even rare. Rather, they underscore the unique vulnerabilities of student journalists, who in many cases do the same critical reporting as professional peers without comparable protections." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • Should libraries house their cities' public data? "In recent years, dozens of U.S. cities have released pools of public data. It’s an effort to improve transparency and drive innovation, and done well, it can succeed at both: Governments, nonprofits, and app developers alike have eagerly gobbled up that data, hoping to improve everything from road conditions to air quality to food delivery. But what often gets lost in the conversation is the idea of how public data should be collected, managed, and disseminated so that it serves everyone—rather than just a few residents—and so that people’s privacy and data rights are protected. That’s where librarians come in." (CityLab)
  • These journalists were barred from filming at a public meeting. Was that decision legal? "Reporting a story on the Park County sheriff last month, 9NEWS journalists Noel Brennan and Bryan Wendland were told they couldn’t bring their cameras into a county commissioners’ meeting that was open to the public. The cameras would be a 'disruption,' Park County Commissioner Mike Brazell said. They would encourage 'grandstanding,' County Attorney Erin Smith told the reporters. Only one other individual attended the meeting, which the county audio recorded. Brennan and Wendland were allowed to ask questions about the now-former sheriff during the public comment period, but when they obtained a copy of the audio, their questions weren’t audible." (Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition)


Former Secretary of the Interior (and future lobbyist) Ryan Zinke speaking in 2016.Former Secretary of the Interior (and future lobbyist) Ryan Zinke speaking in 2016. Image Credit: Gage Skidmore.
  • Ryan Zinke, Corey Lewandowski sign on to Trump tied lobbying firm. "Ryan Zinke, who resigned as interior secretary last year amid scandal, is teaming up with Corey Lewandowski, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, to work as senior advisers at Washington lobbying firm Turnberry Solutions. Jason Osborne, a partner at Turnberry, said Lewandowski won’t do any work that would require him to register as a lobbyist, but said that Zinke was likely to do so." (POLITICO)
  • Paul Manafort lied to investigators after signing plea deal, according to judge's ruling… "A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Paul Manafort lied to investigators after signing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller's office. US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson wrote that prosecutors "established by a preponderance of the evidence" that Manafort made false statements about his communications with longtime associate Konstantin Kilimnik, a separate, as-yet-nonpublic Justice Department investigation, and a payment related to a debt that Manafort owed a law firm." (BuzzFeed)
  • …Meanwhile, the FEC is wondering why a Manafort linked PAC failed to report a $1 million contribution until 2 years later. "A super PAC closely linked to Paul Manafort is facing FEC scrutiny over why it failed to report a $1 million contribution received just before the 2016 presidential election. In a Tuesday letter, the Federal Election Commission asked the Rebuilding America Now PAC for more information about the contribution, which the PAC first disclosed in an amended report in November 2018—some two years after the fact." (Talking Points Memo)
  • Whether or not he runs for President, Michael Bloomberg is prepared to spend at least $500 million of his fortune against President Trump in 2020. "Bloomberg has not yet announced whether he will run in the Democratic primary. If he runs, he will use that half-billion-dollar stake — roughly $175 million more than the Trump campaign spent over the course of the entire 2016 election cycle — to fuel his campaign through the 2020 primary season, with the expectation that the sum represents a floor, not a ceiling, on his potential spending. If Bloomberg declines to seek the presidency, his intention is to run an unprecedented data-heavy campaign designed to operate as a shadow political party for the eventual Democratic nominee." (POLITICO)
  • The latest conflicts out of Trumpland include the cost of Mar-a-Lago trips, a loan request denied, inaugural investigations, and more. "This week, thanks to a report from a federal oversight agency, taxpayers are able to see how much President Donald Trump’s trips to Mar-a-Lago are costing taxpayers, the New York Times learns Deutsche Bank turned down a loan request from President Trump during his presidential campaign and the latest on investigations into President Trump’s inauguration committee." (Sunlight Foundation)


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