Today in OpenGov: Transparent transit trust.


Editor's note: We'll be off tomorrow, but expect us back in your inbox on Monday with all the latest #OpenGov news. 

In today's edition, we explore how transparency can help build trust in local transit agencies, megadonors control the fate of outside spending organizations, departing Trump aides miss a big ethics requirement, the EU moves forward with Internet-threatening legislation, and more. 

states and cities

  • How transparency can help transit agencies build public trust. Greg Jordan-Detamore explains how "transit agencies have shown they can be outstanding publishers of open data. Openly publishing schedule data (and, increasingly, real-time location data) has become the norm, and the standard used for transit schedule data is one of the nation’s brightest open data successes. But what about information about transit agencies themselves — topics like budgets, spending, costs, ridership, procurement, and union contracts? Some of this information is difficult to find (because it’s buried in large PDFs, for example) while parts may not be public at all. A number of transit agencies face crises of public confidence, and greater transparency can help address this." (Sunlight Foundation)
  • News organizations in California are teaming up to analyze a flood of newly released police misconduct records… In California, hundreds of police use-of-force and misconduct investigation records "have been released since a new law took effect January 1, and thousands more are likely to become public in the near future. To deal with this deluge, 33 new organizations in the state have form the California Reporting Project, a cooperative that has so far made more than 1,100 public records requests for police investigations covered under Senate Bill 1421." (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • …On a related note, new data shows that records requesters are very interested in information from law enforcement. "We noticed the majority of our users are heavily interested in law enforcement records, although access to those records is often tricky to get a hold of . Per our data, the top three agencies with the most requests are the New York City Police Department in New York, the Chicago Police Department in Illinois, and the Boston Police Department in Massachusetts." (MuckRock)
  • The National Freedom of Information Coalition is inducting four state open government champions into their Hall of Fame. "Four “Heroes of the 50 States” — representing California, Georgia, South Dakota and Texas — will be inducted into the National Freedom of Information Coalition’s Open Government Hall of Fame for 2019. The inductees have backgrounds in journalism, local government, law and academia…The State Open Government Hall of Fame began in 2003, and since that time, inductees from 14 states have been honored for their dedication to protecting citizens’ rights. Click here to learn more about past 'Heroes of the 50 States.'" (NFOIC)

washington watch

This graph shows spending trends among powerful outside political spending groups. Credit: The Center for Responsive Politics.
  • Dark money groups live and die by the whims of their megadonors. "What goes up must come down. A fact in physics is sometimes also true with outside spending groups. As super PACs and “dark money” nonprofits are often so reliant on contributions from a handful of wealthy individuals, a powerful group can lose influence quickly if a single donor decides to jump ship. For example, American Unity PAC, which works to elect pro-LGBT Republicans, saw its independent expenditures fall from $4.8 million in 2014 to $930,667 in 2018 as the group’s revenue dropped to an all-time low since its founding in 2012." (Open Secrets)
  • Senate subcommittee questions FAA oversight of plane certification amid scrutiny of industry influence. "The first of what will likely be many congressional hearings into two catastrophic overseas crashes of Boeing’s new 737 Max jets began Wednesday with senators focusing on how federal safety regulators delegate work to the manufacturers they oversee and how they react after accidents happen…Boeing spent more than $70 million on lobbying since 2015, and it is also a contributor to the campaigns of members of the committees that regulate it, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics." (Roll Call)
  • Senate Democrats unveil their companion to sweeping ethics and election reform bill passed by the House. "Responding to action in the House, Senate Democrats unveiled their own version of a sweeping election and ethics reform bill Wednesday — one that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed never to bring to a vote." (Washington Post)
  • The Federal Trade Commission, investigating ISP privacy practices, pushes companies for details on how they handle user data. "The Federal Trade Commission is investigating the privacy practices of major Internet service providers, and it has ordered top ISPs to disclose whether they share user Web browsing histories, device location information, and other sensitive data with third parties. ISPs also have to provide details on how they collect and use personal information to target advertisements at consumers." (Ars Technica)


President Trump, on his phone during the 2016 campaign. President Trump.
  • 7 former Trump aides, including a top ethics official, failed to properly report their next jobs. "Seven former senior Trump aides, including the White House’s top ethics official, may have violated federal law by failing to disclose their future employment on financial reports, according to records obtained by POLITICO…High-level staffers are required to disclose their future employment — if they have a job lined up — to identify potential conflicts of interest between their White House positions and new employers." (POLITICO)
  • A group fundraising off of robocalls impersonating President Trump's reelection campaign has raised at least $100,000. "The call sounds like it is coming from President Donald Trump's 2020 re-election campaign…Calls like this one, said to number more than 200,000, have helped raise more than $100,000 in January alone, but that money isn't going to the Trump campaign, whose spokesperson told CNN they were not affiliated with the calls. Instead, the calls are coming from a political action committee that isn't affiliated with Trump's re-election effort and hasn't spent any money so far in this or last election cycle, according to records from the Federal Election Commission." (CNN)
  • President Trump won't rule out pardoning Michael Flynn, others convicted in Mueller probe. "In a lengthy interview with Sean Hannity, President Trump lavished praise on Attorney General William P. Barr, refused to rule out pardoning indicted campaign aides and thanked Fox News for its coverage throughout the Russia investigation." (Washington Post)
  • Federal CIO teases upcoming administration efforts on data, including a finalized Federal Data Strategy. "The White House plans to continue increasing automation and making datasets more usable on the civilian side and plans to work with agencies to implement newly passed laws, as it teased forthcoming policy data and artificial intelligence priorities for 2019." (Federal Computer Week)

around the world

Tracking the vote on changes to the European copyright system.Tracking the vote on changes to the European copyright system. Image from a  tweet by Julia Reda, via Open Knowledge.
  • EU lawmakers vote to move forward with controversial copyright directive. "MEPs have today voted to press ahead with a controversial copyright crackdown in a ‘massive blow’ for all internet users. Despite a petition with over 5 million signatures and scores of protests across Europe attended by tens of thousands of people, MEPs voted by 348 to 274 in favour of the changes. It is expected to lead to the introduction of ‘filters’ on sites such as YouTube, which will automatically remove content that could be copyrighted. While entertainment footage is most likely to be affected, academics fear it could also restrict the sharing of knowledge, and critics argue it will have a negative impact on freedom of speech and expression online." (Open Knowledge)
  • Upcoming elections in Ukraine are the target of disinformation campaigns, cyberattacks, and interference. "Ukrainians will head for the polls on Sunday 31 March in what will be the first regular national elections since the country's 2014 Euromaidan revolution. With its Crimean peninsula still occupied by Russian forces, an ongoing military conflict in eastern Ukraine, and rising activity of far-right groups, the country is a prime target for both domestic and external information influence operations. Ukraine has been in the crossfire of disinformation warfare since 2014, with multiple political actors attempting to disrupt its democratic development. The elections for both the office of the president and parliamentary seats will be a crucial test for Ukraine’s democracy and stability." (Global Voices)
  • The European Parliament won't publish polling data for a month leading up to elections in May. "The European Parliament said it would stop publishing polling data one month before the EU election in May, due to concerns over national election legislation and complaints by parliamentary groups. In a meeting Tuesday, the bureau — the Parliament's 14 vice presidents and five treasurers responsible for internal procedures – decided to reduce the planned publication of seven polls to two, one of which will be released next Friday. No new data will be made public in the last month before the election." (POLITICO)


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